March 28, 2012

Town hall meeting to focus on underage drinking

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A town hall meeting to raise awareness about the consequences of underage drinking and how communities can prevent the problem is set for next week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Student Health Services’ Wellness Center.

The event is set for 5:30-7 p.m. Tuesday, April 3, in the Student Health Center Auditorium.  The Wellness Center and the University’s Center for Rural Health and Social Services Development are collaborating with Southern Illinois Healthcare, the Jackson County Health Department, the Carbondale Police Department, Southern Illinois Regional Social Services, Shawnee Health Service and the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce to host the event, a part of the National Town Hall Meetings Underage Drinking Prevention Initiative. 

A panel discussion will feature input from experts on the front lines, including an EMT, a substance abuse counselor, a liquor store owner, a student bartender and a campus resident assistant.  There will be frank and candid talk about the impact underage drinking has on people and the community.  Participants will also explore measures that other communities are finding effective in reducing and preventing underage alcohol use.

The event, with support from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the federal Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Prevention of Underage Drinking, will not just look at the problem but also at solutions.  According to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 10 million young people between the ages of 12 and 20 reported alcohol use during the preceding month.  That’s about one in every four young people, and the survey indicates there are about 6.5 million binge drinkers, consuming five or more drinks on at least one occasion. 

The negative consequences, experts say, range from decreased academic performance to impaired driving that results in injury or death to the young drinker and/or others.  Studies indicate the cost to the nation of underage drinking in 2010 topped $62 billion.

Research indicates that various types of environmental-based prevention and family influence can reduce the prevalence of underage drinking.  During the town hall meeting, there will be discussion of these and numerous other ways of preventing and reducing underage alcohol use and the negative consequences.

“What parents may not realize is that children say that their parent’s disapproval of underage drinking is a key reason they have chosen not to drink,” Jason Gillman, Wellness Center director, said. 

For more information, visit the Student Health Services website at or call 618/453-3311.