20% Of Twelfth Graders In Summit County Binge Drink
Twelfth graders in Summit County are binge drinking at three times the rate of the rest of Utah. It is an alarming statistic that has behavioral health experts evaluating why this is the case and what should be done about it.
Pamela Bello is the behavioral health prevention director for Summit County. She provides details of overall county wide results from the 2019 SHARP (Student Health and Risk Prevention) survey. She says they look at trends which can change drastically in short time periods. The survey is taken every other year by 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th graders. It’s not mandatory but many schools in Utah have done it since it became available in 2009. In Summit County, she says 20.5% of 12th graders binge drink compared with 6.9% statewide.
“When a kid drinks, it’s to get drunk. Kids don't drink to have a glass of wine at night and the definition of binge drinking is five or more drinks in one sitting. From 2017 to 2019 it's gone down a little bit but our numbers are so much higher than the state.”
She explains that risk factors can predict dangerous behaviors like drug use, binge drinking and vaping. The survey asks questions about school, family, peer groups and community.
“And they predict increased likelihood of drug use, delinquency, school dropout. So, looking at the family and how engaged the parents are in the family. That can predict if these kids are going to have problems or not.”
Bello has been working for more than a decade on parental attitudes that permit drinking and marijuana use in the home.
They use the “Parents Empower Campaign” to educate parents about how alcohol affects a developing brain.
“I’ve been doing this for 11 years and it’s always been one of the things that in Summit County we will work on. We have a lot of big homes in Summit County where the kids are on one side of the house, the parents are on the other side. They don't see what the kids do. We have lots of parents that think it's better if the kids drink at home and they don't go out in a car so they let them drink at home and so we use that campaign. We do parenting classes and different things.”
Bello says the department of mental health and substance abuse collects the data and uses the information to request state funding. She says there is a life skills program funded by the state that is now offered in grades seven through ten. But she says it’s not enough to address concerns they have about student behavior.
“… to go to the legislators and talk about, it needs to be a program in the schools that addresses some of these things. We always need more money for more programming.”
Bello says the risk and protective prevention model is a scientifically proven method to reduce substance abuse. A link to the 2019 Student Health and Risk Prevention Survey can be found on KPCW.org