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FHN Grant Funds to Target Underage Alcohol Use in Jo Daviess County


FHN Family Counseling Center, with funding from the Illinois Department of Human Services, Strategic Prevention Framework-Partnerships for Success (SPF-PFS) grant, is focusing on substance abuse prevention efforts to impact the higher-than-state-average underage alcohol use in Jo Daviess County.

Underage alcohol use is no longer just a college or high school concern. In fact, the age at which kids start experimenting with alcohol is younger than ever. By the time students reach eighth grade, it has been reported that one-third of all Jo Daviess County adolescents have used alcohol. Nearly one-half of Jo Daviess County 12th graders surveyed have reported alcohol use in the past 30 days and one-quarter of the students surveyed admit to “binge” drinking, which is 5 or more drinks at one time in the past two weeks.

Apart from being illegal and risky to both the drinker and the community, the reports have found that drinking increases the risk of motor vehicle accidents among drivers under 21. In addition to motor vehicle accidents, adolescents who drink are also at greater risk for alcohol-induced brain damage and poor performance at school or work. Research shows that adolescents who begin drinking under the age of 15 interrupt key processes in brain development. This interruption makes them more likely to develop serious alcohol problems later in life.

Preventing underage drinking is a primary mission of the SPF-PFS Grant. Assisting everyone in understanding the significance of the problem and what they can do to prevent underage drinking is important to this initiative, as well as evidence-based prevention approaches. Some dangers of underage drinking are:

    Drinking and Driving. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for adolescents aged 15-20. The rate of fatal crashes among drinking drivers under 21 is more than twice the rate for those drivers age 21 and older.

    Suicide. Alcohol use interacts with conditions such as depression and stress that contribute to suicide, which is the third leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 14 and 25.

    Sexual Assault. Sexual assault, including rape, occurs most commonly among women in late adolescence and early adulthood, usually within the context of a date. Research suggests that alcohol use by the offender, victim, or both increases the likelihood of sexual assault.

    High-Risk Sex. Research has associated adolescent alcohol use with high-risk sex such as having multiple sexual partners, failing to use condoms, and having unplanned sex. The common consequences of high-risk sex at this age are unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.

Effective prevention efforts among adolescents are vital to reduce the risks associated with alcohol use. Data from the Illinois Youth Survey, as well as data from other community sources, helps to pinpoint contributing factors that are most prevalent and need to be addressed. Once the contributing factor(s) is (are) identified, there are a number of different evidence-based strategies that can be implemented to impact them.

Examples of evidence-based strategies include:

  • Youth prevention education
  • Compliance checks and responsible beverage service
  • Shoulder tap operations
  • Party prevention and controlled dispersal
  • Sobriety checkpoints
  • Communication campaigns
  • Policy adoption/enforcement – school
  • Policy adoption/enforcement – community

The most successful prevention strategies will address the identified local contributing factors and are effective, relevant strategies that are suitable for the community context. FHN Family Counseling Center, with the support from the Illinois Department of Human Services SPF-PFS Grant, seeks to increase the community capacity and readiness of Jo Daviess County community members to address the issue of underage drinking.

Be a part of the solution and volunteer to be part of the Jo Daviess County Coalition on underage drinking prevention. For more information, contact Nathan Hesselbacher at FHN Family Counseling Center – Jo Daviess County at 815-599-8123.