Petersburg Mental Health Services Supporting Health and Resiliency Education, SHARE, Coalition is expanding the range of the behavior health prevention division in conjunction with the Petersburg Police Department.
“We have begun to furnish a public list of people who are ordered by the court to not consume alcohol or enter an establishment serving alcohol to the local bars,” Petersburg Police Chief Jim Agner said. “This is all a matter of public record, but now it isn’t just the police department that will be watching.”
PMHS has been awarded a grant for the last eight years that is under the division of behavior health prevention and they focus on substance abuse and suicide prevention.
“Our specific grant is focused on environmental strategies of substance abuse and that means reducing access for kids with alcohol,” Petersburg Mental Health Services Therapist Kim Kilkenny said. “We know that the “Just Say No” philosophy just doesn’t work for some middle school and high school kids, we have to take a different approach with these kids.”
Kilkenny explained that the reality is that two-thirds of adults drink and they never learned what is considered a moderate amount of alcohol use so they had to take a step back and look at the impact community wide.
During the summer of 2010 there were a rash of significant events that took place and made the need for this coalition a necessity.
“We had seven incidents in a four month period where juveniles had consumed alcohol to such an extent that it became life threatening,” Agner stated. “We knew who the adults were that provided the alcohol to these minors but were unable to receive proper prosecution in the court system.”
These events prompted a town hall meeting that saw over 100 residents and concerned parents take a stand for what was right.
“For a time, we would have members of the coalition that would show up in the court room,” Kilkenny said. “The courts finally knew that the community would not stand for this lenient behavior for these actions.”
According to Agner and Kilkenny this new intervention will help to make changes to the environmental factors so society itself will change.
“This is in response to the level of violence we are seeing in alcohol use,” Kilkenny said. “We are seeing such dangerous behavior that we want and need to do something about it.”
Agner explained that if the court says, do not consume alcohol, then they should not be consuming any alcohol.
“We are getting great support from the bar owners,” Agner stated. “They aren’t arguing this fact, they are helping us to make this action successful.”
According to Kilkenny, the coalition does not wish to criminalize alcohol use, but use this as a way to save others from doing something they should not such as drink too much, provide alcohol to a minor or put the community or themselves at risk.
“Our position is to teach,” Kilkenny said. “With the proper education, the right decision will usually be made.”