A community-wide comprehensive campaign has begun roll out raising awareness of the issue of both underage and binge drinking in St. Mary’s County. Under the guidance of the Community Alcohol Coalition (CAC), a volunteer organization with coordination through MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, a multi-tiered initiative is being directed to area youth and young adults, parents and families as well as retail establishments throughout St. Mary’s County.
The CAC was established in January 2012 to construct and direct programs educating the community on the social and financial costs of underage and binge drinking.
The process began in St. Mary’s County in spring of 2011 with a jurisdiction-wide needs assessment conducted by the St. Mary’s County Department of Aging and Human Services with participation for a wide-range of local community partners. Based on a thorough assessment of the local issues surrounding alcohol use, the Maryland Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration awarded funding to St. Mary’s County to develop and implement a strategic plan directed at decreasing reported incidences of underage and young adult binge drinking. MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital was enlisted to create and direct this initiative over a three to four year period. The St. Mary’s County Strategic Plan was the first to be granted State approval in June 2012.
“This campaign is the culmination of many months of effort”, said Lori Werrell, Director of Health Connections at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital. “It is a great example of how powerful and productive a county/state partnership can be. The approved plan was based on good input with clear goals and quantifiable, measurable results. We are anticipating a successful long-range effort.” continued, Werrell.
The awareness campaign asks the question ‘Can You Afford It?’ and is accompanied by high impact photography and evidence-based data points to emphasize the risks associated with underage and binge alcohol use (examples attached). The roll out includes print and online media, billboards, posters, vehicle wraps, outreach events and social media.
“The comprehensive nature of this campaign is where we expect to have impact.” said Jenna Mulliken, Program Coordinator, Health Connections, MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital “Our outreach will drive people to our social media sites which is where we hope to maintain a dialog and have direct input and opinions from within the community”.
Addressing access to alcohol is an important component is this effort. In support of this particular area, a Fraudulent Identification Recognition Training was held Nov. 13, 2012 and was attended by 65 participants including, liquor license holders, business owners and their employees. Training was led by Martin Johnson, an expert in detection and investigation of identity documentation. Each participant also received a resource kit with tools and materials for displaying in their place of business
According to Deputy James Stone, St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office alcohol Enforcement Officer, “The CAC has been of great help to law enforcement. Raising awareness of this issue is the first step in reducing the problem. Involving youth and families in the development of the plan and educating parents, businesses and the general community to the prevalence and importance of this issue of underage and binge drinking.” continued Stone.
The CAC is comprised of individuals, parents and youth, as well as agencies and non-profits from the region: St. Mary’s County Department of Aging and Human Services, MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, St. Mary’s County Licensed Beverage Association, St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office, St. Mary’s County Public Schools, Naval Air Station Patuxent River. The group meets monthly to continue to fulfill its mission of the following:
- Create community consensus about alcohol problems in our community.
- Identify underlying factors that contribute to those problems.
- Identify and analyze environmental, social, and individual factors that contribute to the problems.
- Increase the likelihood that the coalition will select and implement policies and practices that actually will reduce Alcohol problems in our community.
- Establish baseline information to track the coalition’s progress.
The CAC welcomes participation and involvement through the monthly meetings and its social media sites:
For more information on the Coalition and how to become involved contact:
MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital