With a attention-grabbing theme of “Party Parents Pay the Price,” The Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team of the Blount County Community Health Initiative will host a town hall meeting on Tuesday, May 11, at the Blount County Public Library. The meeting is from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and is intended to inform parents and concerned citizens about the new Social Host Liability Law and to help promote awareness of the dangers and legal consequences of underage drinking.
Speakers at the meeting include Metropolitan Drug Commission epidemiologist Stephanie Armbrister Strutner; Blount County District Attorney General Mike Flynn and City of Maryville high school teacher and Coordinated School Health Program co-coordinator Roger Murphy.
The timing coincides with graduation and the celebrations that occur at the end of the school year.
“It’s against the law to provide alcohol to anyone under age 21, even if they are your children or your neighbor’s children,” Blount Memorial Foundation and Community Outreach coordinator Judy Clabough explains. “Many people think that underage drinking in their home is OK because the minors drinking are their children. But you wouldn’t rob a bank with your children, so why would you condone another illegal activity just because you are there to supervise?”
Underage drinking-including drinking that takes place at house parties “supervised” by adults-results in the deaths of approximately 5,000 young people each year, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. To help prevent underage drinking and protect the public, Tennessee enacted a Social Host Liability Law in 2009. Under the law, adults who allow underage drinking in their homes or at social gatherings they host can face fines and jail time, and be held liable if an underage drinker is killed or injured, or kills or injures another person.
Clabough says that parents aren’t the only ones in our community who should be concerned about the implications of underage drinking. When minors drink, society pays additional costs for law enforcement, mental health services and other programs related to alcohol use, abuse and addiction. In addition, public safety is at risk due to the increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, drunk driving and speeding related to underage alcohol use.
“Any time you introduce a drug, such as alcohol, into a child’s system, you are going to have risky behaviors,” Clabough says. “After drinking alcohol, young people are less inhibited, which can lead to a number of poor choices including driving drunk and having unprotected sex. In addition, allowing a child to drink limits his or her potential to grow up healthy. Children’s brains aren’t fully developed, so consuming alcohol at an early age can really harm a child’s development and chance of leading a full and productive life.”
Parents, community leaders, educators, law enforcement officials and other concerned citizens are encouraged to attend. In addition to information on the Social Host Liability Law, forum presenters will offer helpful tips and tools for recognizing and preventing underage drinking.
The free program is funded by the Blount Memorial Foundation and Community Outreach and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration. For more information, call the Blount Memorial Foundation and Community Outreach at 865-977-5727.