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coalitions

Engage for Community Change: New Website

In 2016, Texans Standing Tall received a grant from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to conduct a statewide assessment to help identify potential areas of collaboration between the traffic safety community and substance use prevention coalitions, and to develop an interactive tool to help connect coalitions and traffic safety experts.

This month, after conducting interviews with more than 50 prevention coalition leaders and traffic safety experts, analyzing findings, and collaborating to build an interactive web site, Texans Standing Tall launched Engage for Community Change.

On the website, people looking to connect with coalitions can search for one another by location, community type, or areas of focus. The goal is to help coalitions and communities leverage scarce resources for addressing problems in their communities that stem from underage alcohol and other substance abuse.

Coalitions have been integral to the passage of city social host ordinances that hold people accountable for underage drinking parties that occur in their homes or on their property. Texas leads the nation in the number of drunk driving crashes. Coalitions can have a potentially huge impact on reducing impaired driving, and we know that this tool can serve to assist businesses, agencies, nonprofits, and concerned citizens in making our communities safer.

Through the Engage for Community Change project, Texans Standing Tall hopes to help increase collaboration between coalitions and traffic safety experts in the state of Texas. If you have any questions or want your organization to be included in the project, please contact Atalie Nitibhon, Director of Research and Advocacy, via email at anitibhon@texansstandingtall.org or at 512-442-7501.

coalitions

Texans Standing Tall Takes on D.C.

Last month, staff from Texans Standing Tall had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. to help spread the message of prevention! TST’s own Sachin Kamble and Atalie Nitibhon spent a week meeting with elected officials and representatives of many substance use and mental health organizations.

Atalie and Sachin at the offices of National Council for Behavioral Health.

One highlight of the week was a visit to the offices of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Texans Standing Tall had the opportunity to speak with SAMHSA experts about prevention’s role in addressing behavioral health. Kana Enomoto, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of SAMHSA, reaffirmed the importance of preventing alcohol and tobacco abuse.

Dr. Priscilla Clark, Deputy Director of the Center for Mental Health Services, and Kana Enomoto, Acting Deputy Assistance Secretary, from SAMHSA field questions regarding the current behavioral health system in the United States.

During the “Texas Tuesday Coffee” session, Sachin was able to meet Sen. Ted Cruz. Sachin shared his personal journey with his struggles with excessive alcohol use. Sachin discussed what Texans Standing Tall does in the state and the importance of prevention. The senator was very receptive and acknowledged the wide-ranging impact of substance abuse on Texas citizens.

Senator Cruz chats it up with TST’s own Sachin.

Atalie and Sachin also visited Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s office, where they met with his Health Legislative Aide Hannah Vogel to discuss substance use disorders and prevention as public health issues.

Health Legislative Aide Hannah Vogel (pictured far left) speaks to a group of representatives from various behavioral health organizations in Texas.

Overall, the trip was a valuable experience. If TST wants to change attitudes and behaviors toward youth substance use, advocacy at local, statewide, and national levels is essential.

coalitions

Alcohol vs. Athletes

Research indicates that student athletes are a population that is at risk for alcohol use—81 percent of college student-athletes used alcohol in the past year, and 62 percent used alcohol in the past month (NCAA, 2014). When the vast majority of student-athletes are using alcohol on a regular basis, we have a problem.

Some factors that contribute to student-athlete alcohol use include stress from the dual roles that they play on campus and the increased scrutiny they receive, overexposure to social settings that promote alcohol use, and challenges related to having less contact with their central support networks. All students, including athletes, also tend to overestimate the alcohol use of their peers and underestimate their own alcohol use, which contributes to a drinking culture on campus.

In addition to the negative consequences of drinking that can affect all students, such as unplanned sexual activity, combination drug use, and binge drinking, college student-athletes have other reasons to avoid using alcohol.

When talking about athletes specifically, there are a number of reasons alcohol use is concerning. In addition to concerns about physical and mental well-being of the students, alcohol hinders an athlete’s performance.

Alcohol Damages the Heart. Intense exercise increases your heart rate. Drinking alcohol even two days before exercising causes additional stress on the heart and can result in unusual heart rhythms (Drink Aware, 2014). 

Alcohol Harms Muscle Growth. Alcohol use cancels out gains from a workout. Chronic alcohol use can damage long-term performance by causing muscle damage, muscle loss, and muscle weakness; even short-term alcohol use can impede muscle growth. This muscle loss and weakness is known as myopathy. Myopathy can affect all muscles – such as those in your arms, legs, and heart – in a way that can harm athletic abilities (University Health Center, 2014).

Exercising With a Hangover Decreases Performance. When exercising, the body must continuously remove lactic acid. After drinking, a person’s liver is working hardest to rid the body of the toxic by-products of alcohol and cannot remove the lactic acid. This causes a feeling of fatigue, which lowers athletic performance (Drink Aware, 2014).

Alcohol Causes Dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it makes the kidneys produce more urine and can cause the athlete’s body to become dehydrated. Staying hydrated helps blood flow so it can carry oxygen and nutrients to the muscles (Drink Aware, 2014). When dehydrated, an athlete may experience low energy, low endurance, cramps, muscle pulls, muscle strains, and muscle loss. Full recovery from dehydration can take up to a week (UC San Diego Intercollegiate Athletics).                                                                                                                                             

Alcohol Hurts Athletic Performance. Alcohol is linked with a loss of balance, reaction time, memory, and accuracy of fine motor skills (Vella & Cameron-Smith, 2010). Drinking alcohol leads to slower running and cycling times, weakens the heart’s ability to pump, impairs temperature regulation, decreases grip strength and jump height, lowers stamina, and reduces strength and power (Kozir & American College of Sports Medicine).

For college student-athletes, avoiding dangerous alcohol use can benefit their performance in and out of the classroom. Through sensible alcohol policies and educational campaigns that challenge students’ misperceptions, colleges can help prevent alcohol use among student-athletes.

For more information, check out our Athletes vs. Alcohol handout here.

 

coalitions

New Routines, New Opportunities for Underage Alcohol Use

The start of the school year is an exciting time! Students have the opportunity to try new activities, make new friends, and experience new social situations. However, these positive changes can also create conditions like social and academic pressures that leave young people especially vulnerable to dangerous alcohol use and abuse. Parents taking steps to prevent underage alcohol use and abuse is essential to promoting the safety of their children.

The majority of underage drinking takes place in social settings, such as at home and at parties. Even if parents are at home, underage drinking that occurs at parties can have many negative consequences, including violence and assaults, unplanned sexual activity, combination drug use, property damage and vandalism, and binge drinking and alcohol poisoning. Preventing underage social access to alcohol can help reduce these negative consequences.

Parents play a critical role in preventing underage drinking. If parents do not provide a space for underage drinking to occur, young people are significantly less likely to drink. Parents can help change attitudes and expectations that underage drinking is just a fact of life in their community by providing social activities that are alcohol-free and speaking with other parents about the consequences of underage drinking at parties, with or without supervision. Fostering an environment where underage drinking is not viewed as an inevitable rite of passage can help prevent many of the destructive consequences of underage social access to alcohol.

The beginning of the school year is fun and exciting. However, the changes in environment, friends, and school stressors can lead to unhealthy behavior. Parents should have a plan of action to help their kids stay out of trouble when it comes to underage drinking and alcohol abuse. When parents are undeniably clear with their children that are expected to obey the law and not drink underage, their children more often listen to them over their peers. Reducing youth access to alcohol at house parties and in other social situations can keep them safe and healthy – not just as kids, but well into adulthood.

coalitions

YLC Member of the Month: Niko Allen Sanchez Petty

This month, we’re highlighting Youth Leadership Council (YLC) Member Nikolai Allen Sanchez Petty for his stellar work on the YLC data collection project. His hard work and dedication helped the group develop key research parameters that will guide their project moving forward.

We’re quite proud of this young man and look forward to seeing the many more great things he will accomplish!


coalitions

No Ifs, Ands, or (Cigarette) Butts About It

 

School’s out for summer. For many families, spending more time outdoors is a big part of their summertime agenda.

Our Texas parks and beaches are at peak demand for the next several weeks, so it’s a good time to remind everyone about outdoor smoke-free ordinances and why they matter.

Even outdoors, children and adults are affected by secondhand smoke. Asthma attacks, eye irritation, headaches, and ear issues are just some of the effects of secondhand smoke. But it isn’t just an afternoon at the park that is concerning. A 2006 Surgeon General’s Report outlined the dangers of prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke, which include cancer and heart disease in addition to asthma and other respiratory issues. While most studies about secondhand smoke are directly related to indoor exposure, more recent studies have shown that secondhand exposure outdoors can be significant.

Because we know now there is no safe level of secondhand smoke, many communities are looking at expanding their smoke-free policies to include outdoor spaces as well. In addition to protecting people from secondhand smoke, outdoor smoking ordinances can also be helpful to individuals who are trying to quit smoking by eliminating triggers.

They also send an important message to our kids that smoking is not a community norm, which can help prevent later tobacco usage.

When looking at outdoor smoking ordinances, it’s also worth considering the environmental impact of outdoor smoking. Literally trillions of non-biodegradable cigarette butts are collected from sidewalks, beaches, and other outdoors areas every year. In addition to littering the earth, cigarette butts are also harmful to wildlife and can be toxic to fish. Cigarette butts are a significant cause of outdoor fires, and they cost hundreds of millions of dollars every year in property loss and restoration expenses. In a state like Texas, where droughts are common, fire risk is particularly concerning.

While outdoor smoke-free ordinances can be challenging to implement (especially when it comes to defining what is indoor vs. outdoor space), they contribute to a healthier and safer Texas. For more information about pursuing a smoke-free ordinance in your community, please contact Steve Ross, our Statewide Coalition Specialist, at sross@texansstandingtall.org or (512) 442-7501.

coalitions

Summer Mindfulness

 

Summer can be a time for leisure and fun for many young people, but June and July also bring reduced parental supervision and increased boredom – and a drastic change in drinking patterns for adolescents.

On an average day in June or July, more than 11,000 kids, aged 12 to 17, start drinking. For most other months, that number is 5,000 to 8,000 per day.
Parents should be aware of the increased risk for drinking during summer months, and work to make sure the young people in their life have fun without alcohol.

After all, we know the myth that underage drinking is harmless is pervasive. While the biggest danger is drinking and driving, there are so many additional consequences to underage drinking.

Children who begin consuming alcohol before age 15 are six times more likely to experience alcohol dependence or abuse as adults. Additionally, underage drinking is linked to an increase in fights, sexual assaults, and unplanned sexual activity. Underage drinking also results in a higher likelihood of alcohol poisoning and injuries.

Right Under Our Noses

Young people are most likely to obtain alcohol from social settings and house parties. For this reason, parents play a critical role in preventing underage drinking – if they do not provide a space for underage drinking to occur, young people are significantly less likely to drink.

Parents should provide fun activities that do not involve alcohol; hosting get-togethers that are explicitly substance-free (a pool party, splash party, or movie night with adult supervision) can be an opportunity to bring kids together in a safe and alcohol-free environment. Parents should also check with the hosts of parties their children will be going to about whether alcohol will be served.

Social Host Ordinances

Texans Standing Tall is encouraged by a new development in some Texas cities that are adopting social host ordinances to help prevent underage drinking at house parties. So far, three Texas cities — El Paso, San Antonio, and Palmview —have adopted these ordinances that hold people accountable for underage drinking that occurs in their homes or on their property.

If you’re interested in participating in an initiative in your hometown, contact us for more information about how to implement a social host ordinance. Email Libby Banks (lbanks@texansstandingtall.org) or Brian Lemons (blemons@texansstandingtall.org), or call us at 512-442.7501.

This summer, help to encourage safe fun by being mindful of what your child does and providing appealing alternatives. We hope you have a fun and safe summer!

 

coalitions

Whiteclay, Nebraska. Pop: 12, Liquor Stores: 4

Until just last year, Whiteclay, Nebraska had one liquor store for every three residents. This tiny farmland community had been selling alcohol for more than 100 years to the nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

In many ways, Whiteclay seemed to only exist because of its liquor stores. For years, community advocates like Frank LaMere fought to end alcohol sales in Whiteclay, but as is often the case, the alcohol industry was a powerful adversary.

The complicated history of these two communities, which dates back to the 1880s, was captured during a yearlong effort by journalism students who set out to explore the connection between the liquor stores of Whiteclay and the many problems at the reservation—problems that stemmed from high alcohol use, including alcoholism, suicide, infant mortality, fetal alcohol syndrome, and crime.

Ultimately, Whiteclay’s liquor stores closed – all were denied renewal of their licenses in 2016.

The story of how Whiteclay’s policies changed is a fascinating one, and the student journalists’ stories earned them the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Journalism grand prize.

The advocates, stories, and history behind this ultimate victory have been captured in a stunning web site, “The Wounds of WhiteClay: Nebraska’s Shameful Legacy.” We encourage you to visit the site and learn more about this extraordinary community and the committed group of advocates who went against the alcohol industry—and won.

We know there are countless more communities like Whiteclay, so when Texans Standing Tall learned of its story, we knew we had to share it with you.

Activist Frank LaMere weeps upon hearing about unanimous decision to revoke liquor licenses.
coalitions

Coalition Spotlight: IMPACT Waxahachie

Because they are among our most active coalition partners, Texans Standing Tall decided to spotlight IMPACT Waxahachie this month. Thanks for working so hard to make a difference in your community, IMPACT Waxahachie!

We took a moment to talk to Jennifer Heggland, Coalition Coordinator, and Shari Phillips, DFC Project Manager, to learn a bit more about their team and what they love about the work they do. Check it out below!

 

coalitions

Happy Independence Day!

 

This July 4th, we want to help make sure you have a healthy, safe, and FUN holiday! Here are a few reminders to make this holiday weekend a great one:

  • July 4th is one of the most dangerous times of the year on the roads, largely due to drunk driving crashes. In the U.S., nearly 400 people are killed in traffic crashes every year during the holiday; 41% of those crashes involve an impaired driver. With AAA estimating a record number of travelers will be headed out this Fourth of July weekend, it’s especially important to exercise caution when you take to the roads. Be careful out there and check out our “Tips for Safe Travel During the Holiday Weekend” below!
  • If you’re on a boat this 4th, remember that boating and alcohol don’t mix. In addition to impairing the driver’s ability to make good judgements, alcohol also affects passengers’ ability to respond in the case of an emergency. If you’re headed out on the water this weekend, the American Boating Association has some great safety tips you can read about here. 
  • Fireworks are awesome, but they can be dangerous. Make sure you have a water supply close by, and don’t attempt to relight a dud.
  • Pets do not love fireworks as much as their owners do. In fact, one in five pets goes missing after being scared by loud noises, so make sure that pets are in a safe, secure, and quiet place. And, for more ways to keep your four-legged friends safe, check out this list from the ASPCA.
  • Always supervise a barbecue grill when it is in use.
  • If you’re outside, remember to drink plenty of water and reapply sunscreen often.
  • Have fun!