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Editorial: HIP ‘moving the dot’ on underage drinking

 Hubbard in Prevention, the coalition to educate the community on underage drinking, is nearing the end of its five-year grant and looking for some help to continue its presence and influence in the area.  Grant coordinator Angela Graham presented statistics and related information this week at the Park Rapids Rotary meeting showing HIP is making a difference in the community.  HIP is financially supported through a Planning and Implementation (P&I) Grant from the state in partnership with CHI St. Joseph. This grant will be completed June 30, 2016 and is a one-time, non-renewable grant.  Graham stated they are pursuing another grant to fund the program which could expand to include marijuana and prescription drug education and prevention.    

The common thread of HIP and civic/volunteer groups is, “coming together to create positive, lasting change in our communities.”  According to data from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration survey results, people who reported drinking alcohol at age 14 or younger were seven times more likely to become dependent upon or abuse alcohol later in life.  Prevention matters. A decrease in dependence can result in decreased spending on social services and healthcare; increased productivity of workforce; better community image; lower crime rates  HIP is working hard in its prevention efforts in Hubbard County, serving the communities in the school district – Park Rapids, Nevis and Laporte. Some of these strategies include curriculum in the schools, education for adults and parents, youth groups, community partnerships, strengthen policies, decrease youth access to alcohol, and correct misperceptions about youth alcohol use.  HIP is “moving the dot,” as Graham stated, on underage drinking. Local surveys show positive changes in behaviors. In 2012 the percentage of Park Rapids middle school students (grades 7-8) who reported they never drink alcohol was 60 percent. Three years later in 2015 that number increased to 69 percent of those 7th and 8th grade students surveyed who said they never drink alcohol.  

Moving the dot, yes, but still too many middle students surveyed indicating they drink alcohol, and more work to by done by HIP.  The percentage of Park Rapids High School students who report they do not drink alcohol in a typical month was 77 percent in 2012. That increased to 83 percent in 2015.  “We’re trying to change perception and attitudes about underage drinking,” Graham said.  Hubbard in Prevention is an active, hard-working coalition dedicated to reaching our youth and educating families on the dangers of underage alcohol use.  Making an impact in reducing youth alcohol comes from multiple strategies together building a solid foundation through educating students. Along with educating our youth HIP is educating parents in an effort that gives parents tools to talk to their child about the harms of underage drinking, and how setting rules and guidelines are important part of parenting.  HIP is Increasing the focus on prevention and changing the environment in which our students and families live. Working on moving the dot from an environment that encourages underage drinking to an environment that discourages underage alcohol use will result in healthy youth, healthy families and healthy community.