It's going to take a team effort, a reprioritizing campaign and some governmental commitments to stem problems related to underage drinking in Marin.
That was the conclusion of a report released Friday by the Marin County Civil Grand Jury, a 19-member "watchdog" investigative body that monitors local government and makes recommendations about how to improve services and save taxpayer dollars.
The report, which focused on Novato's mission to address the chronic problem, states some of the basics — that alcohol is easy for kids to obtain from retailers, family members and friends; that Marin has one of the highest teen drinking rates in the state; that parents have the most influence on kids' behaviors toward alcohol use; and that education in schools can play a key role.
The grand jury commended the Novato Blue Ribbon Coalition for Youth and its effort to change social norms and reduce kids' exposure to alcohol. The group, which has a on Novato Patch, recently made some national news by pressuring a retail store to take down window displays that blatantly tied drinking with summer fun.
The key recommendations in the report are:
- The Marin County Office of Education and the Board of Education need to support and encourage existing and future alcohol prevention programs in the schools.
- The Marin County Department of Health and Human Services should lead the community in emphasizing the dangers of underage drinking and parents' role in prevention.
- The county health department should have staff members attend Novato Blue Ribbon Coalition for Youth meetings.
- Novato City Manager Michael Frank should choose a representative to become a member of the coalition, attend meetings and keep city staff and the Novato City Council informed.
- The city should enforce drinking-age laws and the social host ordinance that penalizes homeowners for allowing youth access to alcohol.
- The city should require rather than just encourage training for anyone selling or serving alcohol.
For the record, the city has been involved in the coalition from the start, Frank said. Pam Shinault, the city's parks and community services director, is on the coalition's executive committee; city staff member Samantha Kimpel spends all but four of her work hours per week on coalition matters; and police Lt. Keith Heiden is a coalition member and participates on several subcommittees.
Also, several city and police officials joined county health official Gary Najarian in a in May about the coalition's progress and asked parents to contribute ideas to help stem the problem.
Take a look at the full report and share your thoughts with a comment below.