Group hopes to use changes in policies to curb underage drinkingA new project with a new approach to curb underage drinking is putting its roots down in Jamestown. Unlike other prevention projects, Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol wants to influence policy to punish the providers of alcohol to those who are underage.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
A new project with a new approach to curb underage drinking is putting its roots down in Jamestown.
Unlike other prevention projects, Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol wants to influence policy to punish the providers of alcohol to those who are underage.
“It’s going to be a longer period to see an impact, but hopefully we’ll be seeing some changes by December,” said Beth Ryan, community coordinator of Jamestown CMCA, and a Jamestown College sophomore.
Jamestown was one of two cities in North Dakota to receive the CMCA project; the other was Grand Forks. Both projects were provided with $32,500 for CMCA.
The funds are provided through the Northern Lights Youth Services in Hillsboro, N.D., and were made possible through a federal grant administered by the North a Dakota Department of Human Services.
While groups like Students Against Destructive Decisions try to change the students’ opinions on drinking, CMCA wants to change policies.
Some smaller changes in policies that could be made might be an extra security guard or cameras on the campus of Jamestown College. Larger ones could be a system to trace where the alcohol was purchased, or limiting how much a person could buy at one store, Ryan said.
But with new policies in place it still could take years before any results are seen.
“To play devil’s advocate for underage alcohol consumption is really easy because it’s really hard to make an impact,” Ryan said.
Four volunteers along with Ryan are finishing work on conducting 100 surveys in Jamestown with various citizens, from high school students to community leaders.
That information will be sent out of state, compiled into a plan and sent back to Jamestown where a coalition will tweak it to fit the community.
Locally one of the concerns Ryan has seen from surveys is that most people feel the major contributor to underage drinking is people of age buying alcohol for those who are underage.
Fake IDs aren’t a major concern, according to the survey results.
House parties, however, are an issue that Ryan has noticed. Last year law enforcement broke up one party and gave 21 citations for underage drinking. Many of those were Jamestown College athletes and some were high school students, Ryan said.
“Prevention hasn’t figured out a way to be 100 percent effective yet, so this is a different way of attacking the problem,” Ryan said.
Ryan would like to see teachers, administrators, parents, law enforcement and students serve on the CMCA coalition. Anyone interested can email her at email@example.com.
Stutsman County Sheriff Chad Kaiser said CMCA’s approach is different but could have an impact.
“They have some different views and new ideas are always good,” Kaiser said.
The sheriff won’t deny underage drinking is a problem. However, he has seen a decline in big parties from years past.
Ryan wants to involve a wide variety of people including those in education.
“Ask me from my perspective of 35 years in education — absolutely, the biggest problem facing our schools today as I believe is underage drinking, drug and alcohol abuse, the whole gamut,” said Jamestown Public Schools Superintendent Bob Toso. “And I don’t think it’s a school issue as much as it is a community issue.”
Ryan said she knows it’s an uphill battle and a huge problem to try and fix. She just hopes to have some results by June so hopefully funding can continue but perhaps from the state.
“It should continue and if there are positive results the state should see that, and they have money for prevention,” she said.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org