Town Halls on Drinking Show Franklin County Cares about Teens
Celebrate National Public Health Week April 7-13

For Immediate Release:
April 8, 2008

Media Contact:
Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
BURLINGTON – Statewide, five of the 12 Town Hall meetings held during Alcohol Awareness Month in April to discuss the problem of underage drinking will be hosted at Franklin County high schools.

“The number of tragedies connected to underage drinking has really hit home with people,” said Beth Crane, executive director of Franklin County Caring Communities. “People want this to change.”

Underage drinking, according to The Health Status of Vermonters 2008 report just published by the Vermont Department of Health is still a major public health concern. With a Healthy Vermonters 2010 goal of 3.2 percent, in 2005 a full 25 percent of Vermont students in grades nine through 12 reported binge drinking. The national average was 30 percent. Also in 2005, 45 percent of eighth graders believed there is little risk in drinking nearly every day, while 53 percent reported that alcohol is easy to get.

“Alcohol dependence is usually set early in life and can cause tremendous harm not only to individuals, but to families and whole communities as well,” said Health Commissioner Sharon Moffatt, RN, MSN. “Alcohol-related crashes, suicides, domestic violence and unintentional injuries are just some of the preventable consequences of alcohol abuse.”

Franklin County Caring Communities has a federal Strategic Prevention Framework grant through the Health Department that provides resources to assess and combat the problem.

The group has created an underage drinking task force that involves student assistance professionals in the schools, a START (Stop Teen Alcohol Risk) team, a youth advisory council, local law enforcement including the sheriff’s department, Vermont State Police and other service providers.

“The state police are just one piece of the puzzle. Policing is not just enforcement — it’s also about educating the community,” said Vermont State Police Trooper Jay Riggen of the St. Albans barracks. “We have to maintain a free flow of information among the stakeholders. Part of the program is for me to speak with community groups, alcohol counselors, parents, teachers and students and listen to what they have to say. Everyone has to be involved in order for our prevention efforts to be successful.”

More than 140 people attended a Town Hall meeting discussion of underage drinking in Richford on April 2.

“One of the reasons it was so well attended was the administration saw the importance of youth and parent participation and required that all spring athletes attend this discussion,” said Angela Baker, of the Health Department’s district office in St. Albans. “They also used the emergency phone system that is activated when schools are closed to remind people about the meeting.”

The St. Albans district office is working in collaboration with Franklin County Caring Communities, the Grand Isle County Clean Team (an anti-drug coalition) and the Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union to fully assess the extent of the underage drinking problem in their area through the Strategic Prevention Framework efforts. They hope to develop a local strategic plan to address the issue by November.

According to the 2007 Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the Vermont Department of Health and the Department of Education, Franklin County saw a 6 percent rise in 30-day use of alcohol (from 35 percent in 2005 to 41 percent in 2007) among eighth to 12th graders, a 7 percent increase among 10th graders, and a 9 percent increase among 11th graders.

For more information on Town Hall meetings in your community, visit the Health Department’s website at, then choose Substance Abuse Programs.

For more on the The Health Status of Vermonters 2008 or Public Health Week stories and events, go to


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