OUR OPINION: Support civic effort to combat drug abuseCan a new civic effort by Altru, UND and Grand Forks hold back the "tide" of alcohol and drug abuse? You bet.
By: Tom Dennis for the Herald, Grand Forks Herald
King Canute tried and failed to hold back the tide.
Can a new civic effort by Altru, UND and Grand Forks hold back the "tide" of alcohol and drug abuse?
You bet, the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors reported in 2006. In a comprehensive survey of "what works," the association had this to say:
A close look at various regions' experiences "has shown that evidence-based community-wide efforts to reduce alcohol use among youth and young adults more effective than one-time interventions."
With that in mind, Grand Forks residents should help the community's own "evidence-based community-wide effort" get off the ground tonight.
UND, Grand Forks and Altru are sponsoring a Town Hall meeting on high-risk alcohol and other drug abuse and encourage community members to attend.
The meeting is set for 7-8:30 p.m. tonight in Building One of Altru Health System, a press release notes.
Titled "Understanding your influence," it seeks "to help people understand that regardless of age, gender or occupation, anyone can have an influence on reducing the negative consequences associated with high-risk behaviors. ... The forum will facilitate an exchange of ideas on concrete actions that could be taken to make a difference in Grand Forks."
Anyone who doubts that North Dakota has a problem should review the Forum Communications story on drunk driving that ran earlier this month.
"By almost any measure, North Dakota has one of the most acute drunken driving problems in the United States," the story concluded.
"It's somewhere in the top five among states for drunken driving deaths per capita. ... It's somewhere in the top three for deaths per vehicle mile traveled.
"Today, North Dakota has about as many drunken-driving deaths each year as the nation of Ireland, which has a population of about 4.5 million people."
Then there's the issue of the trends -- which also are in the wrong direction, the story reported:
"Even has drunken driving crashes have declined steadily nationwide, they've increased in North Dakota."
Not good. And that's only one element of drug-and-alcohol abuse -- namely, drinking and driving.
But there's also this:
In Massachusetts in the 1990s, six communities joined forces in a comprehensive program of media campaigns, telephone hotlines, high-school peer education and other efforts to combat drunk driving.
"Over the five years of the program, the participating communities saw a 25 percent reduction in fatal car crashes and more than a 40 percent reduction in alcohol-related fatal crashes relative to the rest of the state," the NASADAD survey reported.
And there's this:
In an effort to find the best way to reduce alcohol-related harm of all kinds, a five-year study in California and South Carolina compared three experimental with three control communities. The experimental communities underwent a number of "intervention components," including media campaigns, bartender training, stepped-up efforts to curb underage access and so on.
The result: Compared with the control communities, the experimental communities saw a 10 percent drop in nighttime injury crashes, a 43 percent decline in emergency-room treatments for assault and other improvements, all of them suggesting "a significant reduction in problematic alcohol use," the NASADAD survey reported.
Eliminating alcohol and drug abuse may be an impossible dream. But reducing it is not; and tonight, a community effort will get under way with the aim of doing just that. Here's hoping residents offer strong support.
-- Tom Dennis for the Herald