LIHUE — Kauai officials want to prevent underage drinking on the Garden Isle.
“It is our responsibility to protect our youth from the dangers associated with alcohol abuse; and in doing so, we are helping to protect their future,” said Theresa Koki, Life’s Choices Kauai coordinator.
To help the public learn about the dangers of underage drinking, Life’s Choices Kauai will be hosting islandwide town hall meetings from Sept. 22-30.
“We want to educate the public about the impact underage drinking has on our community and invite everyone to join us for this event,” Koki said.
Of the 146,000 people between the ages of 12-20 in the state, 33,000 consumed alcohol, according to a 2015 Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Prevention of Underage Drinking report to Congress. That’s down from 34,000 in a 2014 ICCPUD report.
As of Aug. 31, 2016, eight people under the age of 21 were arrested for operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant, according to KPD records. For 2015, 28 people under the legal drinking limit were arrested for OVUII.
“Underage drinking is a constant challenge and it’s important that we positively influence our youth to make good life decisions,” said KPD Chief Darryl Perry. “In order for prevention efforts to be successful it requires support from all members of our community, including families, police, schools, coaches and other mentors. I commend Life’s Choices for creating this opportunity to equip our community with the tools we need to keep our youth safe.”
Underage drinking in the country declined from about 29 percent in 2002 to about 23 percent in 2013, according to a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The 23 percent of American youth in 2013 represents 8.7 million people between the ages of 12 and 20.
But that was also during a time when prevention programs were being implemented in schools and in community groups, Koki said.
“Since 2013, the community coalitions have dissolved. We are hopeful that with new data we will be able to revitalize the community’s prevention efforts,” she said.
During the meetings, representatives from Life’s Choices will be discussing data collection, assessment, building capacity, planning, implementing interventions and evaluations.
They will also be sharing information from the Liquor Commission, Koki said.
”We will mostly be listening to the community, as we cannot begin to do work in the community if we don’t have an understanding of what their needs are,” she said.
The meetings run from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
They will be at:
w Sept. 22: Koloa Neighborhood Center
w Sept. 23: Kilauea Neighborhood Center
w Sept. 26: Waimea Neighborhood Center
w Sept. 29 Hale Halawai, Hanalei Community Center
w Friday, Sept. 30: Lihue Neighborhood Center
“Each community is different so the needs may not be the same throughout the island,” Koki said.”We need to check the temperature in each community to be able to see what their specific needs are, what resources are present or what is needed to address the concerns.”
The town hall meetings are sponsored by the Hawaii Department of Health, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division through a Partnership for Success grant.
“Underage drinking is a pressing public health concern that affects the health and well-being of our youth, our families and our communities,” said Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr. “If we can all work together on this issue, I believe that we can begin to bring about change.”