A recent effort by Crook County Human Services sought to raise awareness about the negative impacts that underage drinking can have on children and the community they live in.

The plan was launched following a voluntary survey that examined both the alcohol use of youth in Crook County and the perception of underage drinking among local residents.

The results highlighted a disturbing trend. On a scale of 1 to 9, with 9 being the least tolerant of underage drinking, the community scored an average of 3.1. In short, Crook County has a clear problem despite the fact that law enforcement officials and local human service and health department leaders have focused on reducing its prevalence.

It is sad when the county feels the need to place stickers on alcoholic beverages to remind adults that it is not only bad for young people to consume, but illegal and punishable by law.

Efforts to slow or end underage drinking in Crook County will include a considerable emphasis on raising community awareness about the adverse consequences for children. These include health complications, increased school dropouts, and an uptick in the number of children in the county juvenile justice system.

It should not come to this. We should not have such a high tolerance for underage alcohol abuse. People shouldn’t keep it where their kids can readily access it, one problem the survey noted, and adults should absolutely not buy alcohol that they intend to provide to minors.

Unfortunately, this is a long-time trend. Many people grew up here and in other communities where underage drinking was treated with a blind eye or a wink. In turn, they may view alcohol as a relatively harmless substance for teens.

This perception has to change. The adults in this community must realize that underage drinking is harmful, and possibly deadly. We hope it doesn’t take a tragic event or a death, as Human Service Director Brenda Comini suggested, to change local perception.

Now is the time to break the cycle. If perceptions change, then underage drinking may diminish significantly. It is time to take it for what it is – harmful and destructive to both children and the community.

Contract Publishing

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