October 18, 2012 | Vol. 110, No. 42

City hears results of alcohol abuse survey

Alaska Island Community Services teamed up with Petersburg Mental Health Services to perform a study regarding underage drinking and adult heavy and binge drinking.

Alaska Island Community Services program evaluator Desiree Shepler, relayed results of the Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant to the Petersburg City Council during its regular meeting Monday evening.

The Strategic Prevention Framework Incentive Grant is a federally funded program that is awarded to different states.

“Each state takes the grant and performs the strategic framework, which is a five step public health approach to identifying a community need and a method to solve it,” Shepler said.

The State of Alaska receives this money and at this time, they have decided that the focus will be on youth alcohol consumption in ages 12 to 20 and adult heavy and binge drinking in ages 21 to 44.

“We selected a coalition that includes representatives from the communities of Wrangell and Petersburg,” Shepler stated.

The coalition includes Petersburg Police Chief Jim Agner, Chief Police Dispatcher Angel Worhatch, Fire and EMS Director Sandy Dixson and Petersburg Fisheries Representative Rexanne Stafford and Wrangell Police Chief Doug McClosky, Wrangell Indian Education Director Lou Knapp, City and Borough of Wrangell Mayor Jeremy Maxand and Wrangell School Superintendent Richard Rhodes.

“This coalition serves to identify problem areas in the community,” Shepler stated. “This group will more likely see the issues and recognize if they are more than just one time events.”

The project staff approached adults in the community and asked them to complete a survey asking questions about their perceptions of alcohol in their community.

“417 adults completed the surveys,” Shepler said. “216 in Wrangell and 201 in Petersburg over the age of 21.”

The top problems identified by these surveys were high-risk problems, interpersonal violence, legal involvement, family issues, community issues and personal consequences. All of these issues involved alcohol consumption.

These same surveyed adults identified strengths in the community as well. These strengths are social services, school, community, family, church and home.

The 260 youth in the two communities identified the same problems and strengths for their communities.

“Youth in both communities indicated it is easy to get alcohol,” Shepler said. “They also stated they have adult friends that provide them with alcohol or they resort to sneaking for stealing alcohol.”

Law enforcement officials identified key demographics of those most likely to get caught drinking and driving were males, those most likely to require law enforcement to respond at a bar are males under 40, those most likely to receive a violation for buying alcohol for a minor are males buying alcohol for young girls and the situations youth are in when consuming alcohol are unsupervised gatherings.

“At this time, the communities are ready to move on to the next step in the process,” Shepler stated. “This step is to prioritize the problems and create a readiness plan and a strategy for intervention.”

According to Shepler, this study has given each community a stepping stone to possibly fixing the problems at hand and they are both ready to get it done.

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