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Responsible Host program battles underage drinking

Parents pledge to chaperone alcohol and drug-free parties
By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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A new program is giving parents and teenagers tools to use in guarding against underage alcohol consumption at New Year’s celebrations. The Placer “Parents Who Host Lose the Most” campaign, a partnership of health, law enforcement, school, businesses and community organizations, is raising parental awareness of the multifaceted dangers of underage drinking. It’s also providing a database to check out homes where parties are taking place. A coalition formed out of public meetings on methamphetamine use in the county in 2007 is now working with the county’s Health and Human Services Department to coordinate a countywide database of homes that have taken the Responsible Parent Host Pledge. The Responsible Host Pledge is a parental commitment to not allow underage drug or alcohol use in their home and to actively chaperone youth gatherings at their residence. Shari Crow, health educator with the county’s Substance Abuse Prevention Program, said that indications are most parents are unaware of the rates of underage drinking. Based on an Ohio program, the pledge program was created as a way to help families discuss and monitor underage drinking. Pledges are turned into schools, county Health and Human Services, or the local law enforcement. Participating homes have phone numbers and addresses entered into a countywide, searchable database. Parents are able to access the database to see if a residence has been listed as a “responsible host” home. Parents are encouraged to always call the hosting parent to verify the information, party location and presence of adult supervision. Crow said the parent has to turn in the “responsible host” documentation before it is approved and posted. Names or other personal information are not shared on the Web. The county organized nearly 25 focus groups of seven to 12 young people each throughout the county about 1½ years ago. The results found that 13 percent of seventh graders, 28 percent of ninth graders and 37 percent of 11th graders reported current use of alcohol, or at least one full drink in the last 30 days. The focus groups also revealed that youth consistently listed parents – either their own or their friends’ – as a common way to obtain alcohol. The questions given to the group also found that 30 percent of high school juniors were driving after drinking or had been in a car when a friend had been consuming alcohol. Crow said the program is meant to not just set up clear boundaries but to open up a dialogue between parents and teenagers on expectations. And with students, both high school and college, out for annual holiday breaks where festive occasions can mean the possibility of alcohol use, the “Responsible Host Pledge” program provides answers. Some 500 households have taken the pledge so far, Crow said. For more information and to download the pledge visit pcoparenthost.com. Or call Crow or Kara Sutter at (530) 889-7238. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.