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Hubbard County youth alcohol coordinator resigns

Bill Dent

A youth alcohol prevention group is moving forward with a new name and training in the works despite the resignation of its coordinator.

Hubbard County received a five-year $1 million grant through the Minnesota Department of Human Services to address alcohol consumption by youth.

The coalition involved in decision-making and volunteer work with the grant will be named Hubbard in Prevention (HIP). The next step is to develop a log and start a marketing campaign.

Last week, Bill Dent, who was hired as the youth alcohol prevention coordinator, announced his resignation. He will pursue other areas of work, including basketball coaching, he said.

Dent said he will continue to work with the coalition on a volunteer basis as he is available.

Dent had already started working with students from Laporte, Nevis and Park Rapids. The kids have adopted the "I Decide" tagline and it will be used on t-shirts and banners around the county.

According to a state survey, the percentage of students in Hubbard County admitting to using alcohol is "quite large," Dent told the Nevis School board a few weeks ago. On average, 12 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in Hubbard County were alcohol related, more than twice the state average.

From 1998 to 2011, the percent of students reporting binge drinking (having five or more drinks in a row) averaged 21 percent among Hubbard County 9th graders and 35 percent among 12th graders, according to a state epidemiological study.

To counter this, an awareness campaign is being launched.

The students are leading the campaign, heading to training with other students from across the state.

Twenty-plus Hubbard County students attended a Youth Leadership Academy. Another 40 headed to a Pelican Rapids SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) confab. And another 25 headed to Thief River for a seminar addressing alcohol consumption by teens.

The effort will be student driven.

Curriculum will be developed through Project Northland, with all three schools on board. The program will address students in grades 6 through senior high. Studies now show 12-year-olds to be experimenting with alcohol.

The project will ask tough, introspective questions. Why are you drinking? Where are you obtaining alcohol and what do you consider inappropriate?

Teachers will undergo training in March.

The alcohol coalition, which includes about 30 members representing business, law enforcement, school, judicial, youth and parent sectors will continue working on parts of the campaign as well.

Until someone is hired to fill the youth alcohol prevention coordinator position, assistant Beth Heltunen will work with the regional prevention coordinator, Melissa Perreault from Crookston.

Interviews with community members about alcohol consumption among youth will begin in the next few weeks. Coalition members will be conducting the interviews.

HIP is also looking for more members to volunteer and help with the initiative.

For more information contact Beth Heltunen at 237-5462.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561