L to R-Theresa DelGrasso, Ardsley Cares; Mike Grubiack, Aide to Senator Jeffrey Klein; Colleen Casey, National Guard; Vito Pinto, Director of the Westchester County Office of Drug Prevention and STOP DWI; Nita Lowey, United States Representative for New York’s 18th congressional district; Bruce Kelly, New Rochelle FOCUS, Patricia Tomassi, Assistant Director of the Westchester County Office of Drug Prevention and STOP DWI; Patricia Warble, Coalition Coordinator of Westchester Coalition for Drug and Alcohol Free Youth; Mary Kornman, Chief of the Bureau of Strategic Planning and Crime Control Westchester County District Attorney's Office; Carmel Belles, Coordinator of Special Events, Student Assistance Services; Dr Jeffrey Capuano, Principal of Eastchester High School; Ellen Morehouse, Executive Director, Student Assistance Services; and Judy Mezey, Assistant Director for Community Based Programs, Student Assistance Services.
Westchester Nonprofit and Congresswoman Lowey Announce
Federal Grant to Fight Underage Drinking
Federal Funding Will Help Develop County-Wide Strategies to
Keep Students Safe and Healthy
EASTCHESTER, NY; MARCH 14, 2011– Student Assistance Services Corp., a Tarrytown-based nonprofit organization, and Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Westchester/Rockland) today announced SASCorp received a $831,313 federal grant to fight underage drinking among Westchester County high school students.
"We look forward to continuing to work closely with the Westchester Coalition for Drug and Alcohol Free Youth and all the local community coalitions to implement Countywide prevention strategies" said Ellen Morehouse, Executive Director of Student Assistance Services Corp., “This grant will fund activities to better understand why Westchester teens use alcohol; fund social and traditional media messages for high school students and parents; and fund training for youth leaders, healthcare professionals, and law enforcement on how to intervene with alcohol using teens and promote being alcohol free."
The funding which begins March 1, is from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) to the NY State Office of Alcohlism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) Prevention First-NY initiative. Westchester was one of 11 coalitions funded in NY State because teen alcohol rates exceed the state average (as determined by a 2008 NY State survey) and because of the coalition's strong capacity to meet the grant requirements. The current underage drinking prevalence among students in grades 9-12 in Westchester County is over 13% higher than the state average, according to the 2008 survey with past 30 day use rates in Westchester exceeding the State rates at each grade level. 1(See charts below.) In addition data from the same survey indicated that Westchester 9-12 graders’ binge drinking rates are also higher than the state’s rates.
“Drinking among high school students is a serious issue that we must confront, and that requires a productive partnership between parents, students, schools, and government” said Lowey. “As a mother and grandmother, I know there is nothing that is more important than ensuring our children are safe and healthy. I am thrilled SASCorp will receive this important grant to help fight underage drinking among high school students.”
Congresswoman Lowey has long taken an active role in federal efforts to curb alcohol abuse. She authored legislation, signed into law in 2000, requiring states to enact laws limiting maximum blood alcohol content (BAC) to .08 for individuals operating a motor vehicle. She was named Mothers Against Drug Driving (MADD) “Legislator of the Year” for this effort and for her leadership in authoring the nation's "Zero Tolerance" law, which made it illegal for minors to drive after consuming any alcohol.
“Alcohol abuse has destroyed too many lives and has torn apart too many families,” said State Senator Jeffrey D. Klein, (D-Bronx/Westchester), chairman of the Standing Senate Committee on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. “During my career in public service, I have fought to protect minors and families from alcohol and drug abuse and stand up for communities that have been harmed by its side effects. I applaud Congresswoman Lowey for helping secure this much needed funding so the Westchester Coalition for Drug and Alcohol Free Youth can continue to combat underage drinking now, and prevent future misery caused by alcoholism.”
Vito Pinto, the Director of the Westchester County Office of Drug Prevention and STOP DWI and the Director of Veterans Affairs, chairs the Westchester Coalition for Drug and Alcohol Free Youth stated, “Since 2003, the Westchester Coalition has worked to prevent and reduce teen drinking. We have made some real progress but there is more work to be done. The grant provides valuable resources for us to increase our efforts to protect the health and safety of our youth.”
"The grant builds on the Eastchester coalition's successful 'In Our Backyard' initiative to address substance abuse. We believe that ‘Westchester is one big backyard’ because a teen may live in Eastchester, have a part-time job in White Plains, play on a travel sports team based in Pelham, take horseback riding lessons in Bedford, go to religious services in Hastings, take an SAT prep course in Yorktown, and have a parent who works in Sleepy Hollow" according to Judy Mezey, the Project Director. "Public libraries provide the perfect place to bring together students, parents, elected officials, law enforcement, school and community groups, healthcare providers, and local business to discuss teen drinking and identify solutions"
During spring break parents are urged to make time to talk to their teens not only about the dangers of alcohol use but also about ways to socialize and deal with stress, without drinking. Vacations can be a time for parents to provide opportunities for teens to have fun and de-stress.
N Y State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez said, “Underage drinking continues to be a serious and persistent problem across the state and nation. This funding will allow the Westchester communities to implement effective prevention programs, policies and practices that best address their local needs in reducing underage drinking and its related problems. There is strong evidence that the earlier in life a person starts drinking alcohol, the more likely he or she is to have alcohol-related problems throughout life. Community leaders, such as the Westchester Coalition for Drug and Alcohol Free Youth, have a critical role in shaping the environment to prevent underage drinking, and can guide adolescents through this very important period in their lives.”