O.C. underage drinking being discussed

After a survey showed that at least half of all Newport Beach eleventh-graders had at least one drink in a 30-day period, members of the community plan to come together April 28 to discuss the dangers of and ways to prevent underage drinking.

The Orange County chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence is hosting a bilingual town hall meeting for the Newport-Mesa community called "Minor Drinking— Major Problems." The panel was prompted by statistics that show underage drinking to be more prevalent in Newport than in some other parts of the region.

"We saw Newport Beach had really high rates in Orange County," said Monica Venable, a health educator with the council's O.C. chapter.

TeWinkle Intermediate School's English Learners Advisory Committee and Mothers Against Drunk Driving are also hosting the event.

In the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, 9% of polled seventh-graders have had at least one drink in the past 30 days, according to the state Department of Education's California Healthy Kids Survey for 2009-10.

The rate more than doubles to 23% freshman year and doubles again to 50% junior year, according to the survey.

Costa Mesa is included in the meeting, because the communities are so close, she said.

There will be a panel of experts to talk about the different aspects of underage drinking and "extreme drinking," effects on the community and ways to get the problem under control, Venable, said.

"It's more of bringing awareness to what a parent can do to prevent their child from even starting underage drinking," she said.

The panel includes Michaell Rose, a mental health program manager at Hoag Hospital; Dr. Gary Goodman, an emergency room doctor from the Children's Hospital of Orange County; Shelly Bishop, of the Alcoholic Beverage Control department, who will inform parents about the law and their legal liabilities; and Dr. Didra Brown Taylor of the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science, who will inform parents about the newest alcoholic products targeted at youth, Venable said.

"A lot of the parents we talk to don't realize how easy it is for kids to get alcohol," she said.

National Guard Lt. Ruel Fuentecilla will also be speaking and giving students the chance to try a ropes course.

The meeting is part of a grant from the Orange County Health Care Agency to put on educational activities to inform Newport Beach residents about the dangers of teen drinking.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence also received similar grants for the cities of Anaheim, Dana Point and Laguna Beach, which also showed higher levels of new drinking.

If You Go

What: "Minor Drinking — Major Problems," a town hall meeting on underage drinking.

When: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. April 28

Where: Rea Elementary School, 661 Hamilton St. in Costa Mesa.

Info: Contact Monica Venable at (949) 595-2288 ext. 320

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