Our Maine Street's Aroostook Issue 12 : Spring 2012 - Page 73

Can you describe some of the work you do? The work involves education, advocacy, and action. Education strategies might include alcohol training for law enforcement, in which the need increased when State Liquor Enforcement was abolished in 2003, or responsible seller/server training for retailers. An example of advocacy was when the coalition, prior to my coming on board, worked with Senator Jackson to pass a bill requiring store owners to post the law and penalty for furnishing alcohol to minors. And action strategies, well this comes into play when we’re asked to reactively respond to something that has occurred and created issue, or proactively like when we engage in Sticker Shock. What is Community Voices doing right now? We’ve been busy conducting the groundwork for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration project that Aroostook County has been selected to participate in. We’ve been collecting data from high school students, college, and parents and preparing for increased law enforcement efforts and media coverage of the issue. It’s been quite interesting and a privilege to be one of only four sites nationally to participate in the federal project. What are the biggest challenges in the work that Community Voices does? We’re always walking uphill, or so it seems. Working to reduce the usage and harms associated with a legal, and socially accepted substance is difficult. The alcohol culture runs deep; it’s embedded into our communities, families, and society, especially the media. Turn on the radio, television, internet, read a magazine, it’s in your face. Specifically as pertains to youth, we too often hear of it referred to as a “right of passage” or “well at least it’s only alcohol.” When a fatality or incident occurs, communities mobilize in response. But why do we wait for such tragedy? Helping the community understand that just because we’re not hearing of a fatality a day, so to speak, doesn’t mean that harms are not occurring. Of the deaths involving alcohol, only a third are from car accidents. The other 2/3 are from alcohol poisonings, assaults, fires, and suicide. Not to forget all of the injuries that occur from physical and sexual assaults, or other unintended consequences such as the legal ramifications, risk of ruining a career path with an infraction on one’s record; risky sexual behavior and unintended pregnancy and STDs; increased chance for abuse and dependence - the chances of alcohol abuse and dependence are significantly increased the younger a person starts using alcohol. Another misperception is “it doesn’t affect me, I don’t have a teenager . . .” Well, really underage drinking is everyone’s problem with significant health, safety, and financial impacts. I was just reading a report from the CDC that stated underage drinking costs the U.S. $755 million a year in hospitalizations