It’s a message alcohol prevention specialists hope teens won’t ignore — a powerful look at a typical night inside Lawrence Memorial Hospital’s emergency room.
John Drees, the hospital’s community education specialist, said the ER sees 1,500 alcohol-related cases a year, or roughly four patients a day.
“We’re trying not to scare kids any more,” Drees said. “We’ve gone to a brutally honest presentation.”
Drees is now attempting to share that presentation with every ninth-grader in Douglas County.
He shared it with the public Wednesday morning at a town hall meeting on underage drinking, put on by the New Tradition Coalition, a group of community members and leaders hoping to change people’s attitudes about alcohol.
“My message to everyone is that we all want to be on the same page,” said DCCCA Director of Prevention Jen Brinkerhoff. “Underage drinking is illegal. It’s unsafe, and it’s unhealthy. If we can all get on that page and send a clear, consistent message to anyone under 21, I think we’d be in a much better place.”
Law enforcement officials have also been cracking down on underage drinking through a special $18,000 “Fake ID 101” grant, awarded by the Kansas Department of Transportation.
“The ABC has indicated that Douglas County has one of the highest number of fake ID incidents in the state,” Lawrence Police Department Neighborhood Resource Officer Trent McKinley said. “That’s why Douglas County was chosen for this grant.”
Since February, Lawrence police officers have teamed up with officers from the Kansas University Public Safety Office, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department and agents with the state Alcoholic Beverage Control.
Officers have been visiting bars, restaurants and liquor stores and checking patrons’ IDs.
“Nothing’s secret,” McKinley said. “It doesn’t need to be a surprise to be effective. We want folks who have fake IDs to be concerned about trying to go out to bars and purchase alcohol and refrain from doing that.”
As part of the special enforcement, police have cited 37 people, for 48 criminal violations. They’ve gone to 94 establishments and asked more than 200 people to see their IDs.
The New Tradition Coalition was formed in 2008, but the town hall meetings have been happening since 2006. The group, consisting of more than 30 members, also meets the first Wednesday of every month at 11:30 a.m. at the DCCCA offices, 3312 Clinton Parkway.