Grand Forks brainstorms ways to combat alcohol abuseDrunk males in Grand Forks might be getting off the hook too easily, a police sergeant suggested. His was the comment that drew the most attention at a packed town-hall meeting at Altru Health System Monday night, held to discuss ways the community can prevent alcohol and drug abuse.
By: Jennifer Johnson, Grand Forks Herald
Drunk males in Grand Forks might be getting off the hook too easily, a police sergeant suggested.
“The individuals that we catch urinating downtown, we run them for disorderly conduct,” said Travis Jacobson. “Maybe we should start writing them for indecent exposure, for what it really is, because if we charge them with that, you have to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life.”
His was the comment that drew the most attention at a packed town-hall meeting at Altru Health System Monday night, held to discuss ways the community can prevent alcohol and drug abuse.
It was a warning, that the police have tougher enforcement tools at their disposal. Jacobson and other panelists at the meeting expressed a desire to change community attitudes toward alcohol abuse.
More meetings, organized by UND, the city and Altru, are expected throughout the community and on campus.
A lot of times, parents of teenagers feel they don’t have influence and only the peers do, but that’s not true, said Jenelle Regimbal, senior vice president of children and families at Lutheran Social Services.
“There have been studies that kids are longing to know what their parents think, and often times, parents shy away from having those conversations,” she said. “They care what their peers think, but they also care about what their parents think.”
Educating parents and students about the effects of alcohol is one step toward the goal, along with tough legislation deterring people from hosting parties where minors are allowed to drink, panelists said.
Jeremy Zahradka, a UND student and health and wellness peer educator, suggested bars cap super-low prices to decrease and prevent advertising for binge drinking.
“It would benefit the consumer,” he said. “Our bars would have to compete through other ways, and not through their drink specials.”
Among U.S. states, North Dakota ranked No. 1 in binge drinking among people aged 12 years and older, according to a 2012 state epidemiologic profile. Alcohol is deeply ingrained here, particularly in the sports culture, said a group of college-age women at a round table discussion.
Caitlin Plaine, 22, a UND nursing student, said a recently-engaged friend of hers who doesn’t drink was worried no one would attend the wedding because no alcohol would be served.
“People really do think you have to have alcohol to have fun,” Plaine said.
Helping the younger generation avoid usage without penalizing them and starting student-led anti-drinking campaigns, such as UND’s Sober in October campaign, were a few of the suggestions by attendees.
Change is possible, said Jacobson.
“If 10 years ago, we’d been in this room and I’d said, ‘My goal is to not have smoking,’ you would have looked at me like I was crazy,” he said. “Now, it’s accepted.”
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