Committee to examine effects of high-risk drinking in Grand Forks
Efforts to tackle high-risk alcohol use in Grand Forks and the culture surrounding it got under way this week. The Community and Campus Committee on High-Risk Alcohol Use met for the first time Wednesday afternoon. The committee would work to est...
Efforts to tackle high-risk alcohol use in Grand Forks and the culture surrounding it got under way this week.
The Community and Campus Committee on High-Risk Alcohol Use met for the first time Wednesday afternoon. The committee would work to establish a culture of low-risk drinking in the city through awareness campaigns, recommending law changes and other efforts.
The group's inaugural meeting wasn't spent proposing solutions to the community's problems, but rather allowing the members to become acquainted with one another.
The committee members shared how alcohol has affected their lives. Several members own bars. Others treat the mental and physical pain of those who can't put down a bottle. Still others study alcohol's effects on the body, mind and communities.
In her capacity as UND's Vice President for Student Affairs, Lori Reesor, co-chairwoman of the committee, said she has seen the negative effects of unsafe alcohol use.
"The most painful experience is sitting across from parents who have lost a child due to decisions involving alcohol," she said. "It gets real quickly."
Despite the often-negative perceptions and emotions associated with alcohol use, Reesor said the committee will use data to drive its decisions on any recommendations it may give to community groups.
"Some people have tried to pigeonhole me and ask 'Are you going to fix that problem?'" she said. "I say 'Where's the data? How do you know that's a problem?'"
Her co-chairman, City Council member Ken Vein, echoed the pledge.
"We want this to be grounded in data," he said. "And we want to make that data measurable so it can be proven."
The data gathered by the committee and other organizations could be used to make recommendations for law changes, create education programming about responsible alcohol use and other tasks.
Committee member Bill Vasicek said some local data on alcohol use may be hard to get or may not be tracked, so the committee would likely have to ask agencies to start collecting information members are interested in having.
Prior to the committee's formation, the City Council's Service and Safety Committee held three special alcohol-focused meetings. From these, a list of alcohol-related concerns submitted by community members was compiled.
Among the requests were creating tougher consequences for providing alcohol to minors, limiting drink specials or capping the number of liquor licenses available from the city.
That committee also recommended the creation of a task force to approach the concerns more thoroughly. The Community and Campus Committee was formed at that request of Mayor Mike Brown and UND President Robert Kelley.
The list created by the council's committee would be a starting point, according to Reesor and others, but additional alcohol use and culture concerns would be studied by the group.
The Community and Campus Committee is expected to meet for at least the next three to five years to address community concerns.
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