GOSHEN—County officials and law enforcement agencies have teamed up with the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Council of Orange County in a publicity campaign to prevent underage drinking in homes during the prom and graduation season.
County officials announced on May 2 a partnership with the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Council of Orange County to raise awareness about the county’s Social Host law, which went into effect on March 17.
County Executive Steven Neuhaus was joined by District Attorney David Hoovler, Sheriff Carl E. DuBois, Chairman of the Legislature Steve Brescia, Captain Brendan Casey of State Police-Troop F, and Jim Conklin, ADAC’s executive director.
Social media plays a major role in getting the word out, Conklin said. Many residents don’t read newspapers or watch newscasts. The campaign will be as broad-based as possible, Conklin said, using social media, and advertising on billboards and radio.
Hoovler sent a letter about the Social Host law to all school superintendents in the county and was pleased to see that most placed the letter on schools’ websites.
“We want schools to post on their webpages, on their social media pages, in their morning announcements, and all their publications home to parents that this law exists, and how it may impact them. Everyone should know about this,” Conklin said.
Hoovler and Casey announced at the news conference that the state police made its first Social Host Law arrest on April 3, 2016. A young woman became ill at a party held at a Monroe residence on April 1 and was sent to the hospital. The parents at the home where the party took place were charged under Section 4A of the law.
The parents are cooperating fully with the investigation. The case is adjourned until May 9. Casey said the parents knew that alcohol was being consumed. “They were very forthcoming about this party and what was going on.”
The community needs to be aware about the consequences for violating the law, Casey said, but if parents take reasonable action to help resolve a dangerous situation, they will not be charged. “If people call police because the party has gotten out of hand and they’ve discovered alcohol is there, it will not necessarily result in an arrest.”
Everyone in the community, not just parents of adolescents, need to know about the law, Neuhaus said. Neighbors should alert authorities when they see “50 cars pull up in front of a house and they know that the parents aren’t home,” he said. “They know the neighborhood better than anybody.”
Hoovler said no one wants to talk about alcohol abuse by adolescents. He said other collateral effects come with the drinking—driving while inebriated, fights, sexual assaults, and physically hurting oneself. Hoovler said that parents need to be aware that “it’s illegal to host a party and give underage kids alcohol.”
Some people are under the false impression that if parents don’t buy or supply alcohol, it’s okay for adolescents to drink in a home. Not so, according to Casey. “It closes a loophole where you don’t have to buy or supply it. You just have to know that it’s going on.”
The Good Samaritan law can take effect, Hoovler said, if parents help a young adult who overdoses or is injured at their home. “I assure you here we are not going to prosecute anybody who does the right thing to save a life.”
Although it’s part of our social fabric, Conklin said people need to be reminded that alcohol—a chemical known as C2H5OH, or ethyl alcohol—is a substance with “an extraordinary amount of power that is available at the corner store.”
Dubois advised parents to “be a parent first, not a friend. Parents have to be decision makers. Our goal is to make sure that parents know that there will be consequences if they break the Social Host Law. Our youth are the future of the community and all of us here today will do everything we can to protect them.”
“We are talking about a particularly strong substance that has a profound impact on human beings when they consume it,” he said. He said ADAC does not write, interpret, or enforce laws. They seek to educate, prevent, and be proactive rather than be punitive.
Hoovler congratulated the state police on the balanced way they handled the incident. The officers made sure every person at the party got home safely and that the ill girl got to the hospital. “Only after everyone was taken care of and everyone was safe, did they go back and doing any type of enforcement.”
According to a recent Orange County Youth Development survey conducted in cooperation with Orange-Ulster BOCES, 15 percent of eighth-graders, 34 percent of sophomores and 55 percent of seniors use alcohol. Fifty percent of students have consumed alcohol with their parent’s permission, according to the study. The survey polled 12 Orange County schools for the study.
Brescia said the legislature fully supports the law and has allocated funds for the media campaign.
ADAC is dedicated to the public health issue of alcohol and other drug addictions, providing residents with programs and services to address substance abuse and addiction as a health condition which affects the individual, family and the community.
The non-profit organization provides information, referral and outreach services, as well as operating a School of Addiction Studies that provides credentialing in substance abuse for all human service professionals.
Underage drinking, according to DuBois, can happen any time of the year. “Let’s make our holidays and special occasions memorable times and not times of tragedy. Don’t make one of your children a statistic because you chose to look the other way.”
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