To the editor:
Gloucester's youth are sending a clear message to their peers in a one-minute public service announcement (PSA) — understand the consequences of underage drinking and make a safe choice.
This PSA, "Your Choice," sponsored by Healthy Gloucester Collaborative (HGC), brought together a diverse group of youth with the Gloucester Fire and Police departments with production guidance by Heidi Dallin and Cape Ann TV's Lisa Smith.
The PSA conveys the trauma when good choices don't happen, the struggle that can occur to make healthy choices and the joy when youth and adults work together to support good choices and each other.
Youth substance use is a concern for us all. Youth alcohol and other drug use is a serious public health and safety issue at the national, state and local levels. Low perception of harm and ease of youth access to substances are key contributors to youth use.
According to the 2011 Gloucester Community Health Survey, high school teens who drink report 66 percent of their alcohol access is by "non-parent adults." While Gloucester has seen a recent downward trend in youth alcohol use, ease of access has not decreased, in fact it has increased since the 2009 survey.
Taking an aggressive stance on this issue, Healthy Gloucester Collaborative is working hand-in-hand with the Gloucester Licensing Board and the Gloucester Police Department to review licensing policies and update all officers and alcohol licensees on the latest "best practices" to reduce youth access.
During April and May, Jim Staples, former senior ABCC investigator and respected alcohol enforcement consultant, is providing specialized training for Gloucester retail licensees and all police officers.
If you have a young person in your life you care about, HGC hopes you will take note that furnishing alcohol to minors in the home can carry serious consequences.
A May 12 front page Boston Globe article cites the case of a Beverly resident who, under the Massachusetts social host law, was sentenced to six months in jail, six months home confinement, and a fine for permitting teenage drinking at her home two years ago. While a teen did not die at the party, a youth was hospitalized for alcohol poisoning.
Essex County District Attorney Blodgett stated "... this sends a clear message to adults who think they can control a gathering of underage drinkers ... by providing a place for young people to drink that they are keeping them (youth) safe."
It is often said what we do not learn alone, we learn together as a community. The youth capture this thought most effectively with the message of their public service announcement, "Your Choice."
Ultimately, it is our collective choices that will ensure the health, safety and well-being of all Gloucester youth.
Director, Healthy Gloucester Collaborative,
City of Gloucester Health Department
Chairwoman, City of Gloucester Licensing Board
Gloucester interim chief of police
Gloucester acting fire chief