Participants watch a training video during a TIPS class with Kent County Liquor Inspector Terry Ober (not pictured).

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a national observance that raises awareness about the dangers of alcohol abuse and underage drinking.

Alcohol remains the most commonly used and abused substance among our youth. In fact, by senior year more than half of high school students across the country have used alcohol, according to the 2020 Monitoring the Future Survey. In Kent County, about 69% of Kent County high school students have had at least one drink, according to the latest local youth risk behavior survey. And, about 10% of our high schoolers have driven after drinking.

The good news is that most of our teenagers don’t drink – in fact, more than 60% of Kent County high school students don’t, and more than 80% do not binge drink. Together, we can keep it that way with a few simple actions.

Research has shown that kids who have conversations with their parents and learn about the dangers of alcohol and other drug use are 50% less likely to use these substances than those who don’t have such conversations. And parents have more influence on a child’s values and decisions before he or she begins to use alcohol.

“We know that most of our kids don’t drink or use other drugs here in Kent County, but awareness always is important,” said Annette Duckery, Alcohol and Other Drugs Prevention Coordinator at Kent County Behavioral Health (KCBH). “And now, a year into this pandemic, alcohol use is increasing in adults and we hope to help people understand the risks associated with increased alcohol consumption as well as underage drinking.”

Duckery recently purchased 64 ID checking guides and 20 We Card calendars for Kent County’s alcohol retailers. Our retailers are making great efforts to assure alcohol is not served or sold to our teens, and these items can help prevent underage sales. The ID guides help identify state and often unfamiliar out-of-state licenses, while the calendars make it easy to calculate age from someone’s birth date.

“With social distancing and the wearing of masks, our liquor licensees are having to make adjustments to their procedures when dealing with customers, which includes asking each individual making an alcohol purchase to lower their mask for Identification purposes in an attempt to protect the establishments’ liquor license and to assure the identity of the individual,” said Terry Ober, Kent County Liquor Board Inspector. “Our licensees have done a fantastic job during this unusual environment and purchasers should be aware of the difficulties our establishments have had to endure during the past year.”

Ober said the ‘drinks to go’ program enacted during the pandemic has proven a challenge, but licenses have acted responsibly. The program expanded alcohol sales to allow to-go and delivery under an emergency executive order that will likely continue for several months.

“Supporting our local establishments is essential as we attempt to reduce the restrictions that have affected us all,” said Ober.

Ober offers alcohol awareness trainings for license holds through the Training Intervention Procedure (TIPS). For information call 443-995-5367 or email terryober22@gmail.com.

Anyone struggling with alcohol abuse or other substance use can contact SAMHSA’s national 24-hour, confidential helpline at 800-662-HELP.

KCBH also has a new youth prevention initiative called, Most Kids Don’t, which focuses on the reasons most local kids do not drink or use other drugs. Email mostkidsdont@gmail.com for information on how your child can get involved.

The now-defunct National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence/Facing Addiction started Alcohol Awareness Month in 1987.

The Kent County Behavioral Health Prevention Office helps community groups, agencies and individuals in providing programs and activities to prevent alcohol and other drug abuse, and to build a healthier community.

Media Contact: Kelley Callaghan, 410.934.7537.