Thursday, October 27, 2016

Underage Drinking Affects our Communities and Our Children

By: Ray Brownsworth
CEO, Van Buren County Hospital
SAFE Coalition member

In a recent survey conducted on behalf of the SAFE Coalition, drinking was identified as a normal social activity by our middle and high school students. Some may write this off saying this is part of growing up or even a rite of passage. We are however talking about our children for whom alcohol has become the drug of choice and at what price?

Motor vehicle accidents, homicides, suicides and other accidents are prevalent among our young people claiming nearly 5,000 lives annually according to national statistics. (Alcohol Alert #67, January 2006, US Department of Health and Human Services)  Perhaps less lethal but equally important is that children who participate in underage drinking can have abnormal brain development, memory loss,  attention deficit, as well as mental problems such as depression and anxiety. High school dropout rates are higher and there are lower levels of educational achievement. Underage drinking can lead to increased sexual activity and disease presence at younger ages and lead to the use of other drugs.  (Fact Sheets - Underage Drinking, Center for Disease Control, November 12, 2015)

According to a town hall meeting held on Community Health conducted this year, over 76% of participants indicated that there is an underage drinking problem in the county and 88% indicated that adults’ acceptance of underage drinking contributes to underage drinking overall. The 2014 Iowa Youth Survey found that 27% of 11 graders had at least 1 drink in the last 30 days and 15% of 11th graders had participated in binge drinking in the last 30 days. 81% of 11thh graders indicated it was easy or very easy to get alcoholic beverages in Van Buren County.

The SAFE Coalition is working with community members, merchants, schools, hospitals, local governments and others to keep our children safe and alcohol free, to teach our children about responsible alcohol use, and to raise community awareness and support.  Specifically with the Iowa Partnership for Success Grant funds the coalition is addressing the availability of alcohol to youth at community events held in public places and privately owned facilities.  The coalition would like to see policies put in place that would restrict access to alcohol by youth aged 12-20 at these events.  The recommendation of the coalition is to have written policies that require alcohol service best practices for community events.  These policies could include licenses for events in public places for alcohol to be sold, separate fenced areas for alcohol sales and consumption, IDs being checked before sales are made, wrist bands provided to those of legal age, etc.  At privately owned facilities without alcohol licenses the policies could include a separate area for alcohol consumption, IDs being checked, etc. or even no alcohol allowed at the facility. 

The Coalition works with local teens, parents and businesses to be aware of the presence and danger of underage drinking, to step up local enforcement of current laws, and to hold them responsible. The coalition is seeking support from community event organizers in public and private places to help keep youth alcohol free at their events. You can make a difference! 

If you are interested in being a part of the work of the coalition or these strategies specifically please contact the SAFE Coalition at 319-293-6412 or  For more information on how to reduce or eliminate underage drinking visit or or Van Buren County SAFE Coalition on Facebook.

The Van Buren County SAFE Coalition was awarded the Iowa Partnership for Success (IPFS) Grant in 2015 to address underage drinking and underage binge drinking in Van Buren County.  The Van Buren County SAFE Coalition’s IPFS project is funded by the Iowa Department of Public Health, through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

On Halloween, and Every Day, Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving – The SAFE Coalition Reminds Halloween Partiers Against Drinking and Driving

This Halloween, the SAFE Coalition is reminding Halloween partiers that Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving. If your Halloween party involves alcohol then you have to make a plan to get home without getting behind the wheel.

If you want to stay safe this Halloween then make a plan to get home without driving if you’ve been drinking. Even one drink impairs judgement, so plan to get home with a designated a sober drive. Buzzed driving is drunk driving, so think ahead to stay safe.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 43 percent of all people killed in motor vehicle crashes on Halloween night (6 p.m. October 31st – 5:59 a.m. November 1st) from 2009 to 2013 were in crashes involving a drunk driver. On Halloween Night alone 119 people lost their lives over that same period. Children out trick-or-treating and the parents accompanying them are also at risk as 19 percent of fatal pedestrian crashes on Halloween night (2009-2013) involved drunk drivers.

It is illegal everywhere in America to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. In 2013, 10,076 people were killed in drunk driving crashes. Even if you drive drunk and aren’t killed or seriously injured you could end up paying as much as $10,000 for a DUI.

Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving, so follow these simple tips to stay safe:
·         Plan a safe way to get home before you attend the party. Alcohol impairs judgement, as well as reaction time. If you’re drunk you’re more like to choose to drive drunk.
·         Designate a sober driver or a call a sober friend or family member to get home.
·         Walking while impaired can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Designate a sober friend to walk you home.
·         If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact local law enforcement when it is safe to do so.
·         If you see someone you think is about to drive while impaired, take their keys and help them get home safely.

For more information, please visit

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Rx Take Back Event This Saturday October 22, 2016

REMINDER: Clean out your Medicine Cabinet and bring your unused and expired Over the Counter and Prescription Medications to the Rx Take Back Event!!! This Saturday, October 22, 2016 at the Keosauqua Senior Center, 801 Front Street, Keosauqua, IA 52565. For more information contact the SAFE Coalition at 319-293-6412 or info@vbsafecoalition.comCannot take needles/sharps or inhalers.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Underage Alcohol Use – Not a Rite of Passage

Many people dismiss underage drinking as a normal “rite of passage” in adolescents.  However, it is important to remember that alcohol is one of the most common contributors to injury, death, and criminal behavior among youth (Hingson and Kenkel, 2004). Underage alcohol use can have immediate and potentially tragic consequences as well as long-range harmful consequences, such as increased risk for chronic alcohol addiction (Grant and Dawson, 1997). Enforcement activities to limit youth access to alcohol are critical to reducing underage drinking and its often tragic consequences.

Who is a Social Host?  A social host is someone who knowingly allows an underage person to consume alcohol illegally on the host’s property. 

What is Social Host Liability?  Social Host Liability is the legal term for the criminal responsibility of a person who allows such illegal activity.

What would this ordinance/law aim to do?
·         The Social Host Ordinance /Law is aimed at those who allow persons under legal age to consume alcoholic beverages in or on property they own or control.
·         This ordinance/law would address enforcement and prosecution problems where persons knowingly permit or allow underage drinkers to have a party on their property, even when the owner didn’t supply the alcohol, and persons, including parents, who knowingly permit or allow their children’s friends to consume alcohol at their home, even where the parents didn’t supply the alcohol. 
·         The ordinance/law only applies to those who know the underage drinking is going on and do not stop it, or who gave permission for it to occur in the first place.  It would not apply to persons who did not know the underage drinking was occurring on their property.  For example, if the parents were away, and their child had a party at their home and the parents were unaware of it, those parents would not be charged.

Why is This Important?
·         We want our youth to grow up to be strong, healthy and drug-free.
·         Even when the property owner did not supply the alcohol, it is still illegal for underage youth to consume alcohol. Adults, including parents, who knowingly permit youth to consume alcohol at their home, are sending the wrong message to our youth.
·         Currently, only the person who actually physically sells or gives the alcohol to the person under legal age can be prosecuted.
·         Underage drinkers may obtain the alcohol from one person, and then go somewhere else to drink it.  Common examples are parties that take place in rural areas, or at the home of one of the underage drinkers.  Adults have told police they knew about the party and it was okay with them, “because the kids weren’t driving and I knew where they were.”  This is still condoning illegal behavior.  Currently, there is no charge that applies to these situations.

Neighboring Jefferson County passed a similar ordinance on September 20, 2013. The SAFE Coalition consulted with Jefferson County's Assistant County Attorney Pat McAvan in regard to their ordinance.  McAvan shared, “Law Enforcement and Prosecutors hope that they never have to charge a violation of this ordinance in Jefferson County.  The primary goal is to educate people and change the community’s attitude about underage drinking and substance abuse while providing a mechanism to redirect poor decisions.  This ordinance is the tool that will do both.” 

He also shared the following:
·         Since the ordinance was enacted in Jefferson County and the City of Fairfield they have each only had one investigation.   In both cases the offending party moved out of the area before they could be prosecuted. 
·         The successes are hard to measure but they are there.  The community is more aware of this issue and their responsibility if they are a social host.  In addition, there has been a slight increase in communication with law enforcement when something does happen or is planned in the County.  People would rather speak up ahead of time than face charges after the fact. 

For more information about the proposed Local Social Host Ordinance please contact the Van Buren County SAFE Coalition at 319-293-6412 or

Thursday, October 6, 2016


On Saturday, October 22, 2016 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Reserve Officers, the SAFE Coalition, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will give the public its 12th opportunity in six years to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs.  Bring your pills for disposal to the Keosauqua Senior Center at 801 Front Street, Keosauqua, IA 52565.  The DEA cannot accept liquids or inhalers or needles or sharps, only pills or patches.  The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.

Last April, Americans turned in 447 tons (over 893,000 pounds) of prescription drugs at almost 5,400 sites operated by the DEA and more than 4,200 of its state and local law enforcement partners.  Overall, in its 11 previous Take Back events, DEA, and its partners have taken in over 6.4 million pounds—about 3,200 tons—of pills. 

This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue.  Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs.  Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. In addition, Americans are now advised that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines—flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—both pose potential safety and health hazards.

For more information about the disposal of prescription drugs or about the October 22, 2016 Take Back Day event, go to the DEA Diversion website at or the SAFE Coalition Website at or call 319-293-6412.