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Group works to change alcohol perception in Hubbard County

Youth Alcohol Prevention Coordinator Bill Dent and support staff Kristine Partlow will be working to curb alcohol use among teens in Hubbard County. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

Bill Dent has been named the Youth Alcohol Prevention Coordinator for Hubbard County.

The position, hired through St. Joseph's Area Health Services, is funded by a five-year, $1 million planning and implementation work grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division.

"The goal is to change the culture around youth drinking and attitudes of the community," said St. Joseph's Community Health manager RaeAnn Mayer.

Dent was introduced at a Hubbard County Drug and Alcohol Task Force meeting this week. While the grant deals specifically with youth alcohol prevention he will be working closely with the drug and alcohol task force as well. That group has already been in existence for the past five years.

Kristine Partlow has been hired as support staff for the prevention coordinator and will work closely with the task force as well.

A program will be established that will reach each corner of Hubbard County, Dent said. Dent will be forming an Alcohol Prevention Coalition to assist him in carrying out the new state contract that has an emphasis on prevention education and focuses strictly on alcohol. This coalition will likely include some task force members along with some fresh faces.

Dent and Partlow will be attending several training sessions this fall. There is room to include other members of the community in some of the training sessions.

Park Rapids, Nevis and Laporte school districts will work closely with the prevention coordinator.

Heidi Wormley, Nevis School home interventionist, said right now the job of an interventionist is to find those students who need some extra attention and work with them and their families.

"It's about making connections," she said.

This grant will help the school interventionists do more with education.

"We won't stop teen drinking overnight but with education and a committed coalition we can make progress," Dent said.

The Hubbard County Drug and Alcohol Task Force will also continue to meet, however there is no longer funding for that group. The task force will be looking at finding funding sources to continue some of the work started by that group.

The prescription drug campaign was started by the task force and still has some funding, said Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes.

Hubbard County residents are encouraged to bring prescription drugs to the Law Enforcement Center for safe disposal.

"We've probably taken in about 50 pounds of pills," he said. "That's thousands and thousands of pills."

Once a significant amount of prescription drugs has been collected they will be taken to an incinerator.

The Social Host Ordinance also stemmed from the task force.

Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne has charged a few cases under the new ordinance. Under the ordinance anyone who allows underage drinking in their home can be charged.

The Change Direction program is the last ongoing task force initiative. This is a class offered to first-time underage drinking or drug offenders. The diversion program is offered to kids and their parents.

The hope is to continue offering these programs and expand on what has already been started while continuing to curb underage drinking in the county.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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