The Central MetroWest Substance Abuse Prevention Collaborative (CMSAPC) is a grant-funded, regional coalition of schools, youth-serving organizations, faith-based service, local governments (Health Departments, Youth and Family Services), and local substance use prevention coalitions across the communities of Ashland, Framingham, Hudson, Natick, Northborough, and Southborough. The mission of CMSAPC is to prevent and reduce underage drinking.
As a result of a strategic planning process, which involved everything from analyzing the regions “MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey” data, to focus groups with community members, and one-on-one interviews with community stakeholders, we were able to identify two clear variables that impact underage drinking in all 6 communities. For the past 3 years, the collaborative has been working together on shared strategies and practices to improve connections between youth and adults, as well as to enhance local alcohol retail policy.
Building Connections Between Youth and Caring Adults
We believe that every adult has a responsibility to support the young people in their communities, in order to help them engage with and contribute to the world around them. Not only is this a necessary part of our creating healthy communities, but without support from at least one adult, young people are more likely to engage in risky behaviors like underage drinking. In fact, according to data from the 2014 MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey, youth without adult support were 38% more likely to report drinking in the past 30 days and 56% more likely to binge drink (4-5 drinks in under 2 hours).
The CMSAPC created the Caring Adults Action Team to help build these beneficial relationships between individual adults and youth, as well as to support organizations as they make structural changes toward making their services more supportive for youth. All of our “Caring Adults” activities are designed under the philosophy of Positive Youth Development, particularly, through the lens of the Search Institutes’ Developmental Relationships Framework.
More information about the activities of the Caring Adults Action Team can be found here.
Enhancing Local Alcohol Retail Policies
We understand that one of the most effective ways to prevent young people from underage drinking, is to simply decrease their access to alcohol. On a governmental level, cities and towns also share in the responsibility to protect youth from the harms of underage drinking. This can be done through policy change, and in turn, the fostering of positive community norms around drinking.
Currently, CMSAPC is helping communities to identify and implement best-practice policies towards reducing young people’s access to alcohol at bars, clubs, and liquor stores. The end goal of our work is to support communities through the creation of tools and general guidance as they adopt policies and regulations that make sense for their communities.
Why is Underage Drinking Important to Prevent?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:
Underage Drinking results in over 4300 deaths per year
90% of youth alcohol use in the US is in the form of binge drinking (4-5 drinks in under 2 hours). In this circumstance, youth consume alcohol faster than their body can process, and can therefore result in alcohol poisoning.
Someone who begins using alcohol before the age of 15 is 40% more likely to develop addiction to drugs or alcohol. Each year that drinking can be delayed reduces the likelihood of an addiction developing.
It is estimated that underage drinking cost tax payers more than $249 billion dollars in 2010 alone
Additionally, in Massachusetts it is estimated that in 2010, youth from 0-19 lost a collective 2,119 years of life due to acute injuries and accidents relating to alcohol use. Moreover, long term effects due to drinking at an early age have started to show up. One study finds that an increase in overall deaths due to liver cirrhosis and cancer in the United States is largely due to a large increase in deaths among young adults.
Interested in Getting Involved?
Our meetings are open to anyone who lives, works, plays, or worships in our 6 communities. If you are passionate about preventing underage drinking, we invite you to participate to any level you can!