This year more than 1,700 community-based organizations will conduct town hall meetings across the country – up from 1,500 in 2008, the last time this national event took place.
Every two years the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) works with other organizations at the national, state, and local levels to help sponsor these town hall meetings as part of a concerted effort to promote the U.S. Surgeon General’s National Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking and to promote one of SAMHSA’s priority initiative areas, Prevention of Substance Abuse and Mental Illness. Through its prevention initiative SAMHSA is working to highlight the nature and scope of this problem and to promote effective strategies for preventing it.
The scope of the underage drinking problem remains enormous – for example:
- 10.1 million underage youth (aged 12-20) are current alcohol drinkers.
- 17.4 percent of underage youth engaged in binge drinking during the past month.
- 16.7 percent of youth age 18 – 20 have driven under the influence of alcohol in the past year.
The town hall meetings work at the grassroots level to raise awareness of the public health dangers of underage drinking, and to provide families and communities with practical steps for steering youth away from underage drinking.
“Prevention is SAMHSA’s number one initiative and reducing or even eliminating underage drinking is a key part of SAMHSA’s prevention efforts. Town hall meetings are a key part of a national effort to turn the tide against underage drinking. There are early signs that this effort it is paying off – for example, the rate of underage drinking and binge drinking have decreased over the past six years,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “We need to build on this progress and get the word out to everyone that underage drinking is not a rite of passage and that parents have the power to help their children choose not to drink.”
This year SAMHSA is organizing these town hall meetings with members of the National Prevention Network – alcohol/drug prevention leaders in the states and territories and in national organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Students Against Destructive Decisions, and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
A number of new efforts are being undertaken this year by SAMHSA as part of its strategic initiative to prevent substance abuse and mental illness to prevent underage drinking. For example, SAMHSA and the Ad Council recently launched a new series of national public service advertisements to encourage parents to talk with their children about the dangers of drinking alcohol at an early age.
Public service advertising campaign information and town hall meetings is available from SAMHSA at http://www.stopalcoholabuse.gov .
SAMHSA is a public health agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.
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Media Contact: SAMHSA Press Office