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Coalition to hold town hall meeting

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By Jesef Williams

Did you know that nearly three out of every 10 high school seniors in Lancaster County reported being drunk at least once in the last month?

The Lancaster County Prevention Coalition, which conducts studies on underage drinking, is holding a town hall meeting Thursday in hopes of reducing those numbers.

The Underage Drinking Prevention town hall meeting will be 6 p.m. at Lancaster High School auditorium. The community is invited to attend.

The event will feature a Family Feud-style competition about alcohol facts, and then Dr. Paul McKenzie will present the latest findings about alcohol usage among youth in Lancaster County.

"There's going to be so much information," said Becky Catoe-Aikey, who serves as co-chairwoman of the coalition's planning committee, along with LaNisha Stover.

"I hope it (the event) will strike a fire that will burn, and possibly we'll see a reduction in underage drinking," Catoe-Aikey said.

Prom promise

The Prevention Coalition said the timing of the town hall meeting is great because it's prom time.

Each of the four high schools in Lancaster County is asking students to sign a promise not to consume alcohol, tobacco or any other drugs during prom night. They're also asked to agree not to provide those substances to others.

Indian Land High School students will make their prom promise on Thursday, just before their prom on Friday.

Lancaster High School will have its prom promise Friday. Its prom is Saturday.

Students at Andrew Jackson High School will take theirs May 2, and Buford High's prom promise is May 9.

Deborah Boulware, who's coordinating the event at Lancaster High, said 75 percent of seniors signed the prom promise last year.

She reminds all students that they aren't being forced to sign it – it's completely voluntary.

"It's not a scare tactic," Boulware said. "It's a way to inform the kids about some of the negative consequences they may face."

Effects of alcohol abuse

Jane Alleva, community relations director for Keystone Substance Abuse Services in Rock Hill, has repeatedly seen the brutal effects alcohol can have on teens.

She said many teenagers who binge drink or otherwise abuse alcohol have reduced memory, less control over impulse, are more violent and are more likely to take risks.

Teens who drink are 49 percent more likely than their adult counterparts to drive under the influence, Alleva said.

She also said there's a strong connection between teen pregnancy and alcohol use.

"These students drink at a massive rate," Alleva said. "Their sole purpose is to be totally wasted. We see kids come into the hospital with severe (alcohol) poisoning."

Alleva said Lancaster County teens comprise about 10 percent of the nearly 300 teens who receive services from Keystone in a year.

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or (803) 283-1152