by Daniel Manou
Oswego, NY- As underage drinking and drug use grows around the country, Oswego County is trying to find ways to not only control this epidemic but turn it into a positive trend.
On a daily basis alcohol is in the public’s eyes whether from advertisements, stores or people using it around them regardless of the viewers age. According to a multi-year study by Farnham Family Services alcohol is the most used drug among minors in Oswego County. However, compared to the last survey, this year’s results are showing progress. Prevention Services Director Penny Morley believes the results of this year’s survey is heading in the right direction.
“We did a youth development survey in 2013 and another one in 2016, and our numbers are going down, youth that are reporting underage drinking,” she said.
Although Morley acknowledges the comparison of surveys shows only a small drop in underage drinking, she is still pleased with the numbers.
“Just a few percentage points, but even just a few percentage points is better than having an increase”, said Morley.
According to the survey nearly 70 percent of high school seniors have used alcohol. Most minors reported the easiest access is from their own home.
In an effort lead by Oswego County Undersheriff Gene Sullivan, police have attempted to stop underage parties. Sullivan has been working to shut down these parties and educate minors about the dangers of underage drinking since 2011. However, he has directly seen what consequences arise.
“By the end of the night we would have fights, vandalism would occur and in the worst case scenario people driving away from that party, getting into crashes some of them were fatalities,” Undersheriff Sullivan said.
In 2014, Farnham instituted the Oswego County Prevention Coalition in response to the 2013 survey and has worked alongside schools to educate the youth. According to the 2016 results, ninth grade, the same age period when alcohol is most dangerous to children, was where the usage jumped the highest.
“Anyone that uses before the age of 15 has a much higher likelihood of addiction as an adult, their brains are not fully formed at that point”, said Morley.
With the tactics that have been put in place and continue to be worked on, there have been signs that they have made an impact.
“I think there’s been tremendous progress, but it’s been painfully slow. It’s a difficult message to deliver”, said Undersheriff Sullivan.
Even with the long awaited results showing optimism, both Morley and Sullivan know their job isn’t done.