“Drinksgiving”

 

While Thanksgiving traditionally conjures images of turkey, football, and family, Thanksgiving Eve is giving way to a relatively new phenomenon known as “Drinksgiving.”

Also referred to as “Black Out Wednesday,” Thanksgiving Eve has become the busiest night of the year for bars. Largely driven by a rush of college students and young adults who flock home for the Thursday holiday, people will often arrive the day before and head to their local hometown bar to meet up with old friends. According to a bartender interviewed about one of the year’s “booziest” days, “People always talk about New Year’s Eve. It isn’t that big compared to that Wednesday [before Thanksgiving].”

This cultural phenomena has become so popular that it prompted the NHTSA to build a powerful campaign around it last year called “Make It to the Table: Don’t Drink and Drive this Thanksgiving Eve.”

Because Thanksgiving is the most traveled-for holiday of the year, with many families traveling more than 50 miles during the long weekend, we’re talking about countless Texans on the roads this season.

According to some sobering statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, alcohol-related crashes increase during the holidays, with alcohol-related fatalities spiking two to three times during that time as well. While the most dangerous holiday fluctuates, Thanksgiving is consistently one of the top three. From 2012 to 2016, over 800 people died in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday period.

At Texans Standing Tall, we know that awareness and preparedness can save lives. In our efforts to build healthier and safer communities for all, we’ll be sharing important tips on social media in the days before Thanksgiving Eve. Please “like” us on Facebook and join us this season by sharing our posts or creating your own. You can play an important role in keeping your loved ones safe and at your table this Thanksgiving.

Source: NHTSA Media

Drinking to Cope with Parenthood Has Reached “Meme” Status

We’ve recently noticed – and perhaps you have too – a lot of internet memes, Instagram photos, ads, merchandise, and even events that make light of drinking to deal with the challenges of parenthood. At first, we didn’t think too much of it and maybe even gave some of the jokes a little chuckle. But once we started paying attention, we really started noticing it, and it became more and more troubling. What message are we sending our kids? That they’re so bad they drive us to drink? Or that drinking is the best way to cope with stress? Take a look for yourself:


Despite mountains of research telling us drinking alcohol is not the best way to deal with stress, we continue to see a growing collection of these types of things. It made us wonder – when did the alcohol industry decide parents were the ideal target?

From sponsoring wine and beer events for moms and dads to advertising gifts on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, we’re shifting the cultural norms to something that ultimately, is not healthy for our children.

But, the more we see the social media posts, ads, t-shirts, mugs, and on and on and on, the more normal it becomes. Not only do we believe that “everyone else is drinking,” we believe it’s warranted. However, for every pretty photo of a happy hour cocktail shared on Instagram, there’s a real-life consequence to our parent drinking culture: our kids are watching, and we’re normalizing alcohol use for them, too.

We’ve shifted our cultural norms so that our kids see us treating alcohol like it’s any ol’ drink – soda, juice, coffee, tea. But it’s not. At its core, alcohol is a drug that can have severely negative consequences – especially when young people use it.

So, we don’t want to just brush this culture shift off. We want to join others in calling it out for what it is: exploitative marketing capitalizing on the difficulties of parenting.

We’re not saying parents should never relax and unwind with a glass of wine or a cold one here and there. But the fact of the matter is, parents have a huge influence over their children’s future drinking habits.

Case in point, this internet post of a child’s response to a school assignment asking them to write one sentence about a family member and draw a picture:

More often than not, our children will adopt the behaviors we model for them. If we tell our kids not to drink to fit in or deal with difficulties, but they then see us drinking to “cope with the stresses of parenting,” what message are we giving them, and what behavior are they going to copy?

Parenting is hard. It’s one of the toughest jobs in the world, and it can seem flat out overwhelming at times. Building connections and getting support from others is an important and meaningful way to strengthen our villages so we can keep our kids healthy and safe.

At the same time, it’s important for us to pay more attention to the messaging we’re being fed when it comes to parental drinking behaviors – it’s a kind of manipulation that is so pervasive, we may not even recognize it as marketing. However, being aware of it and knowing that our behavior influences the future behavior of our children might encourage more of us to scroll past that “mommy juice” meme on Facebook without giving it a “like.”

What kind of messages about parental drinking have you all seen circulating lately? Are they more pervasive with the rise of social media? What concerns do you have about this type of consumer marketing strategy? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

 

TST Working with Coalitions Across Texas

 

Summer may be a time for slowing down, but Texans Standing Tall is ramping up our work with coalitions across the state this season.

Whether we’re traveling to the Rio Grande Valley for media training or headed to Tyler for stakeholder meetings, we’re focused on reaching prevention groups and helping them achieve their missions by working together with advocates, activists, and local leaders.

In May, TST’s Research & Program Specialist Kaleigh Becker traveled to Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande Valley to meet with safety experts, lead a focus group, and collaborate with various coalitions on strategies to reduce impaired driving and underage alcohol use. Attendees also received an in-person demo of our online searchable coalitions tool, which helps individuals and organizations connect to leverage resources and enhance prevention efforts. Additionally, Strategy Specialist Anne-Shirley Schreiner and Director of Community Outreach & Education Georgianne Crowell hit the road to train local advocates, law enforcement, and youth on media and community engagement. The trainings helped the coalitions grow their efforts to address underage alcohol use in their communities.

This June, the road trips continue as we visit multiple cities – including Fort Worth, Tyler, and Waxahachie – to meet with transportation safety experts, state agencies, and university advocates on effective strategies for reducing alcohol use and impaired driving among youth. We’ll also spend some time in Hood County, training youth and adults on how to partner to create positive community change.

In July, we’ll head to to Blanco County to train coalition members on strategies for preventing youth substance use, then help them build a roadmap to success for doing just that. Later on this summer, we’ll make our way to East Texas for a controlled party dispersal training, where we’ll train local law enforcement on ways to safely and effectively break up underage drinking parties.

If you live in one of the communities mentioned above and would like to learn more about what we’ll be doing and how you can get involved when we visit your area, be sure to let us know!

Through training, education, and collaboration, we hope to significantly reduce the incidences of underage drinking – and the consequences that go along with it – in our communities. We know we are most effective when we can directly engage with local leaders and advocates who are passionate and mission-driven.

As we meet with and train coalitions throughout the state, we’re encouraged to learn that communities are excited to have additional opportunities for education and collaboration.

We know the best way to build healthier and safer communities is by exploring ways we can work hand-in-hand with groups that are committed to raising awareness, advocating for substance use prevention, and building a Texas in which alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use have no place in the lives of youth.

Are you involved in your local prevention coalition? Are you interested in learning more about working with us directly? If so, please reach out to Georgianne Crowell at gcrowell@texansstandingtall.org or 512- 442-7501. We’d love to work with you!

Coalition members in Pharr getting interviewed for the local news:

Training youth and law enforcement in Pharr:

Talks and Activities Can Help Prevent Summertime Underage Drinking

 

Your kids are out of school for the summer – but from 9 to 5, you’re still at the office.

How are your teenagers spending the dog days of summer? Are you involved in their day-to-day activities? Do you know where they’ll be, who they will be with, and what they’ll be doing? If they are hanging out at home and/or spending their time with friends, do you know their parents, and have you talked to them about underage drinking?

Though these conversations are important year-round, they’re especially critical in the summer time, when kids are also far more likely to have their first drink. After all, on an average day in June or July, more than 11,000 kids will start drinking. By comparison, that number averages 5,000 to 8,000 during the rest of the year.

If your child isn’t taking summer school, working a summer job, or otherwise occupied in the months ahead, they may find themselves with time on their hands – the kind of leisure that can lead to boredom and experimentation.

Your high schoolers, who may be spending their days hanging out at the lake, going to festivals, or attending parties – where kids overwhelming get their access to alcohol– need to know you don’t approve of them drinking alcohol. If they’re spending time at friends’ houses, where older siblings or adults might be willing to supply alcohol, your children are more likely to say no if you’ve clearly communicated that you don’t approve of underage drinking. It’s also important to talk to the parents of the peers your children are hanging out with about your expectations. But even when kids don’t drink, too often they get into cars with friends who have been drinking. So remind your kids that they should never ride with anyone who is driving after drinking (in cars, boats, motorcycles, etc.).

As adults, it is our job to create safe environments for children that are free of alcohol. This can include providing them with alternatives during their summer months so that they fill their days with fun, learning, and growth opportunities. Some free and affordable options might include:

  • Volunteering at a local animal shelter or nursing home
  • Swimming at the neighborhood pool
  • Starting a side business, such as dog walking, lawn mowing, or babysitting
  • Working through next year’s school reading list at the local library
  • Planting an herb or vegetable garden
  • Enrolling in a photography or writing class at your local community college

Finally, don’t leave alcohol available in your home; if you have alcohol in your home, lock it up.  You should also check in with parents to see if they have alcohol accessible in their home before your children hang out there.

There are endless ways to fill a summer day that don’t involve underage drinking. And, studies show that the longer kids wait to take their first drink, the lower the odds are that they’ll develop alcohol abuse or dependence as adults. Preventing young people from drinking underage also means we’re protecting them from many of the negative consequences they’re more likely to experience when they drink – things like alcohol-related car crashes and other injuries (e.g., burns, falling, and drowning), unplanned or unprotected sexual activity, physical and sexual assault, abuse of other drugs, or even death from alcohol poisoning.

We hope you’ll get involved in your kids’ daily activities and keep them safe and alcohol-free this summer. For more information about what you can do to help prevent underage drinking with your kids and in your community, contact us at TST@TexansStandingTall.org or 512.442.7501. And, if you have ideas about other safe and healthy activities for youth during the summer months, share them in the comments section down below!

Court Ruling Challenges Little-Known System That Benefits Public Health

This March, just one month before Alcohol Awareness Month, a federal court in Austin ruled that giant retailers like Walmart and Costco can begin selling hard liquor.

Current law prohibits Texas’ publicly traded businesses from owning liquor stores. In the long run, this law is good for public health because it limits consumer availability of liquor and the consequences that come with it.

This fight is a long time coming. More than three years ago, Walmart sued the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, arguing state liquor laws “unfairly gave family-owned chains the right to obtain unlimited liquor store permits while shutting the largest U.S. retailer out of the lucrative market entirely,” according to this Texas Tribune article.

This court ruling directly affects our current three-tier system of alcohol distribution, which helps the federal and state governments regulate and control the alcohol industry. As its name suggests, the three-tier system is composed of, you guessed it, three tiers:

Tier 1: Suppliers/Producers – anyone who actually makes or supplies the alcohol (e.g., breweries).

Tier 2: Distributors/Wholesalers – those who get alcohol from the suppliers/producers to the places where you buy or consume it.

Tier 3: Retailers – anywhere consumers can get alcohol (e.g., bars, restaurants, grocery stores, package stores)

It’s a rather complicated system and if you’re interested in learning more about it, we’d recommend reading some of Pam Erickson’s work, or checking out Toward Liquor Control, or sending us an email with any questions you may have. However, the bottom line is this: the three-tier system is incredibly important for public health and safety, especially as it relates to our kids.

It may not seem like a big deal, but a system most people are unfamiliar with is protecting our public health, and most of us are unaware that there are strong forces at work seeking to dismantle this system through alcohol deregulation. Small changes like these add up over time and ultimately create situations where we’ve expanded availability of and access to a product that is not an ordinary commodity; it is not like apple juice, where the most likely danger of overconsumption is a full and gurgly tummy.

Let’s paint a picture.

Let’s say Walmart, or another big box store, is now able to sell alcohol. Where do they put it? Is it in a separate section of the store where you must be 21 to enter (like liquor stores)? Or, as you and your family are strolling down the aisles, do you pass the soda…then the beer…and now you’re face to face with a bottle of whiskey?

Adults would no longer need to go to liquor stores, where even the cashier has to be at least 21 years old, to get their whiskey and vodka. With this new “convenience” and increased availability, they can buy liquor while buying groceries, making alcohol to appear as an everyday household item with no risks to our kids.

What about the 16-year-old cashier at a major retailer, who is allowed to sell alcohol in a grocery store under current law? Will this young cashier be more likely to sell whiskey or vodka to his underage friends when they go through his checkout line? How will this tie in with the emergence of online delivery apps, which we recently explored? Will online grocery store delivery now include a bottle of liquor that can be ordered by your teenager?

We don’t yet know all the public health and safety problems we’ll face under this new court ruling, but we do know one thing: when we increase access to alcohol we increase its use among underage drinkers.

We also know that alcohol-impaired driving is a problem among young people. They aren’t binging on milk or soda then crashing a car, they are drinking alcohol and making dangerous decisions. Treating alcohol like other commodities and expanding youth access to it can be a deadly business.

For now, as this case winds its way through the courts, Texans won’t see any changes to liquor availability at large retailers….yet. Advocates should still stay on guard because once again, we find ourselves in a situation where business interests seem to be taking priority over the best interest of our communities and our kids.

The three-tier system “balances alcohol availability, price, and promotional practices” and is an important mechanism for enforcing existing regulations, according to Pam Erickson, former director of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. And yet, despite its major public health benefits, others are working to dismantle the three-tier system so they can increase their bottom line. In the meantime, we’re closely watching what happens and hope you’ll join us in our efforts to keep the system intact so our communities are healthy and safe for everyone.

If you have any questions, or to get involved, contact us at 512.442.7501 or TST@TexansStandingTall.org.

 

 

 

 

The Heart of Our Work

MADD Victim Advocates Kathy Hernandez and Dani Simien

Kathy Hernandez lost her 19-year-old daughter, Casey, nearly 11 years ago in a devastating car crash. Casey got behind the wheel after she had been drinking at a party where adults provided alcohol.

Dani Simien’s life was forever altered in the same crash. He was Casey’s victim, and at the time of the 2007 crash, he was just 18 years old.

Dani, now 30, became paralyzed as a result of the injuries sustained in the 2007 head-on collision, and a few years later, began working with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Kathy also became involved with MADD as a way to honor her daughter’s life.

Kathy and Dani share a unique bond, and for the last several years, they have also shared the same mission: as MADD representatives, they travel the country, often together, sharing their heartbreaking and inspiring stories with groups like ours.

We were fortunate to have them lead a plenary at our Statewide Summit.

For Dani and Kathy, every speaking opportunity is one more step toward healing and helping others.

It is also an opportunity to teach people that underage drinking and impaired driving affect everyone—even the “good kids.”  Casey excelled academically and athletically, and had set her sights on a career on forensic psychology when she got behind the wheel of her Mustang after consuming an unknown amount of alcohol at a party. Dani, meanwhile, had dreams of his own. Ever since the third grade, he had dreamed of being a firefighter. “I wanted to do certain things with my life,” he shared with the audience. “Instead, I’m in a position to talk to people and tell my story.”

Dani said being an advocate through MADD’s Victim panels, in communities, and in schools has been critical to his healing. Speaking to groups allows him to achieve one of his goals, which is to reach more than one person at a time. He said he and Kathy have “the power to bring life to a story” that they hope people will hear. Beyond telling stories, Kathy and Dani have become activists and advocates. Kathy is involved with her local Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse so that she can get involved in more prevention work—such as reducing underage drinking through the passage of social host ordinances in her area.

Kathy said she would do anything to trade places with her daughter but because she can’t, she will continue to focus on prevention through advocacy.

“If I can help save parents from having to live this life, then maybe she didn’t die for nothing.”

We all have a role to play in creating a community in which young people aren’t solely responsible for their relationship to alcohol. Through community-based initiatives like social host ordinances, we can hold adults accountable while reducing youth access to alcohol at house parties and in other social situations. In doing so, we can help keep young Texans safe and healthy – not just as kids, but well into adulthood.

Effectively Engaging Youth

Nigel Wrangham during his opening keynote presentation.

Nigel Wrangham is a youth and leadership trainer who understands that youth are an integral part of an organization’s activities—not just a box to check off.

He recently addressed our Statewide Summit attendees and urged them to forge real partnerships with young people.

He believes engaging youth and utilizing their skills is the most effective way to create community change. He has personal experience working with groups of young people and their allies to help them influence policy, advocate for social change, and summon the courage to act consciously from their core principles. He understands that nourishing youth-adult partnerships creates powerful tools for change.

We heard him talk a lot during his presentation about “being a bit radical” and “stepping outside your comfort zone.” But for Wrangham, these aren’t just soundbites. He offered examples for coalitions and other groups, such as recruiting youth from unexpected places, involving youth in strategic planning and organizational decision-making, and knowing how to recruit new young people as others “age out” of our coalitions.

It is clear from the conversation and audience questions that many of our partners and allies are working with youth to some degree, but haven’t yet unlocked the full potential of the youth in their communities. For those interested in learning more about working with youth, Texans Standing Tall created a Community Engagement Guide as a tool to help coalitions more effectively engage youth in their local prevention efforts. To learn more about this guide, or to receive training on adult-youth partnerships in prevention, contact Sedrick Ntwali, Youth Engagement Specialist at (512) 442-7501 or sntwali@texansstandingtall.org.

Summit Roundup

We are grateful to everyone who led a breakout session and contributed to lively discussions during our 2018 Statewide Summit. Thank you to those who made this our most successful Summit yet! We’ll see you next year!

Below is a rundown of the panels you may have missed. And, be sure to scroll to the bottom of the post to see some photos from the event!

Reducing Risky Alcohol Use on College Campuses: The SBI Experience

Amanda Drum | Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi
Mayra Hernandez | Texas A&M University – International
Debra Murphy | Huston-Tillotson University
Melissa Sutherland | San Antonio College
Tammy Peck (Moderator) | Texans Standing Tall

Oftentimes, schools are interested in improving the campus experience for college students through their prevention efforts, but may be short on funds to provide the desired programming. During this session, participants learned about Screening and Brief Intervention (SBI) as a proven way to reduce risky drinking and its associated consequences on college campuses. They also heard from current and past SBI campus partners, then learned ways to implement SBI as a primary prevention tool and engage stakeholders in the implementation process without having to spend tons of money.

Coalition Building

Kaleigh Becker | Texans Standing Tall

During this breakout session, participants had an opportunity to engage in a conversation around building and sustaining successful coalitions. This interactive session focused on recruiting dedicated coalition members, organizing effective meetings and engaging coalition members.

Advocacy 101: Use Your Voice to Shift the Dynamics of Power

Sachin Kamble | Texans Standing Tall

During this breakout session, participants learned about the basic skills needed to become an effective advocate. The presentation included a discussion on the importance of advocacy and the role it plays in shifting power dynamics, the different types of power and influence people have, and critical steps advocates must take to have their voices heard and create community change.

Alcohol & College Life: Perspectives from Students

Adam Concha, Amy Tang, Katy Turner | Youth Leadership Council

TST’s own Youth Leadership Council led this standing-room-only breakout session discussing the pressures college students face when experiencing the “college life.” Alcohol use rates are high among Texas college students. Being a first-year college student, participating in the Greek system, or being a college athlete puts individuals at higher risk for alcohol use. During this session, the YLC shared their perspectives on college life and engaged attendees in an informative discussion on how to enhance their college alcohol use prevention efforts.

Data Download: Effectively Communicating the Problem

Kaleigh Becker | Texans Standing Tall

During this breakout session, participants learned more about the scope of the youth substance use problem in Texas. The examined key data points related to alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs, and tobacco. In addition, participants had an opportunity to create their own infographic using an online design platform!

Excise Tax Resources & Next Steps

Nicole Holt | Texans Standing Tall

What’s going on with alcohol excise taxes? What does the 2019 legislative session hold for this important, highly effective environmental prevention strategy? Our CEO Nicole Holt discussed the challenges and opportunities for excise taxes in the upcoming year, including the anticipated budget deficit and how alcohol excise taxes can enter the conversation as a viable solution to help address the state’s fiscal needs. 

Risky Youth Behavior & Tools to Address It

AJ Cortez, Samantha De la Rosa, Andrea Marquez | Youth Leadership Council

There is an abundance of research and information that captures the risky behaviors that occur as a result of underage drinking. This issue is a priority to families across Texas. During this breakout session, TST’s Youth Leadership Council shared some of the current problems associated with underage drinking and prevention strategies to address them. They also discussed how to use TST’s Community Engagement Guide to effectively engage youth in local prevention efforts.

Alcohol Outlet Density

Michael Sparks | Sparks Initiatives

Did you know that the number of alcohol outlets in a neighborhood has a negative impact on individual and community determinants of health? Michael Sparks, alcohol policy expert, led participants through the basics of outlet density during this session: what alcohol outlet density is and the role it plays in public health and safety. Based on information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this session provided information coalitions need to 1) identify the number of outlets in communities, and 2) engage in discussions about addressing alcohol outlet density in their communities.

College Campus Prevention: Tools & Resources

Tammy Peck | Texans Standing Tall

Excessive alcohol use among students continues to be a problem for college campuses. During this session, participants learned about ways they can review and enhance their prevention efforts with limited resources (both time and money). Participants also learned more about the data from Texans Standing Tall’s most recent Higher Education Report and how they can apply this information to their work with/at colleges and universities. Additionally, TST demonstrated the online college policy tool it is building to help schools, parents, students, and community members learn more about the effectiveness of different campus alcohol policies.

The 3-Tier System & Public Health (Continuing the Conversation)

Pam Erickson | Public Action Management, PLC
Ed Swedberg | Board of Directors, Texans Standing Tall

During this presentation, attendees had the opportunity to dig deeper into the ramifications of attempts to dismantle the 3-Tier System (3TS) of Alcohol Distribution. Participants engaged with experts Pam Erickson and Ed Swedberg on what is happening at the national, state, and local levels surrounding the 3TS. Topics included how permitters and permittees can use the system to benefit alcohol distributers and increased sales with little thought to public health, how impaired driving rates and underage drinking are affected by the enforcement of the 3TS, and issues presented by online delivery services.

Addressing Marijuana Legalization in Texas

Kaleigh Becker | Texans Standing Tall
Michael Sparks | Sparks Initiatives

During this breakout session, participants had an opportunity to have an in-depth conversation about 1) marijuana legislation in Texas, 2) other states’ experience with expanded marijuana policies, and 3) the public health, social, and economic implications of expanded marijuana policies. In addition, participants determined the next steps for the Marijuana Workgroup.

Powdered Alcohol: A Bad Mix for Texas

Sachin Kamble | Texans Standing Tall

During this session, TST’s Sachin Kamble discussed where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re headed with powdered alcohol. The presentation covered what powdered alcohol is, why were concerned about it making its way to the marketplace, and previous legislative action related to powdered alcohol in Texas. It also included thoughts on powdered alcohol and the upcoming legislative session.

Social Media Advocacy: Building Your Coalition and Strategy Base

Laura Hoke | Laura Hoke Public Relations
Steve Ross | Texans Standing Tall

Social media is an essential tool for your community advocacy efforts. During this breakout, participants learned tips from public relations and communications expert Laura Hoke to increase, engage, and maintain your social media audience. The session reviewed how to use social media to communicate your message, how to reach your target audience, and how to interpret the analytics to gauge if the messaging is effective.

Bummed you missed any of these great breakout sessions? Never fear, TST training is here! Contact us at tst@texansstandingtall.org or 512.442.7501 to learn more about the trainings TST has to offer on any of the topics listed above, plus many others.

Youth Leadership Council (YLC) members with TST’s Youth Engagement Specialist, Sedrick Ntwali, getting ready to start Day 1 of Summit.Nigel Wrangham delivering his opening keynote presentation. TST CEO Nicole Holt during her excise tax breakout session.YLC members Lauren Oliver, Amy Tang, Katy Turner, Adam Concha, and Emily Hottman with Georgianne Crowell, TST’s Director of Community Outreach and Education, and Maria Caldera Morales, their YLC sponsor and Community Coalition Partnerships Grant Coordinator at The Coalition.TST’s Peer Policy Fellow, Sachin Kamble, and Youth Engagement Specialist, Sedrick Ntwali.The H2i Coalition Team from Odessa.YLC Members  AJ Cortez, Andrea Marquez, Nathaniel Fomby, and Jesus Cabrales.TST’s Nicole Holt with Pam Erickson and TST Board Member Ed Swedberg, who spoke about the Three-Tier System. Day 1 Breakout Sessions.MADD Victim Advocates Dani Simien and Kathy Hernandez during their breakout session on becoming advocates.  Amber Newby and Kathleen Armstrong Staas from the Blanco Coalition of Awareness, Prevention, and Treatment of Substance Abuse (CoAPT).Our friends from the RED Program with advocates Dani Simien and Kathy Hernandez. Day 2 Breakout Sessions.

Do you have Summit pictures to share? Be sure to post them on our Facebook page  or send them to us at tst@texansstandingtall.org!

 

 

Hidalgo County Sees Groundswell of Smoke Free Ordinances

“Community buy-in.” That’s the phrase Gilda Bowen uses to describe the wave of comprehensive smoke-free ordinances recently passed in communities throughout the county. Bowen is the Tobacco Coordinator for the Hidalgo County Tobacco Prevention Cessation Coalition (TPCC).

When the Hidalgo County TPCC formed in February of 2014, only one smoke-free ordinance had passed within the county. Today, 17 communities are 100% smoke-free.

“Even though there are separate cities in the county, the Valley is like a large community,” said Bowen. “So every time a city passed one, it encouraged another to take it up.”

She credits the combination of grassroots efforts and support from American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, Texans Standing Tall, and other organizations for their success.

“It took research and planning from the AHA and ACS combined with a lot of one-on-one meetings to convince civic leaders that their communities wanted this,” Bowen added.

The movement built up slowly, with the cities of Edinburg, Pharr and Mission creating smoke-free ordinances from 2014-2016. Then in 2017, momentum took over, with at least one ordinance a month being passed.

Having coalition members committed to creating smoke-free communities was the major factor in making Hidalgo County virtually smoke-free. Every agenda, handout, or email from members included updates on what was happening in cities. So when McAllen had a public hearing, they had over 200 people show up.

The coalition realizes that even with this success, their work is not over.

“There will always be more work, there will always be opportunities,” said Mrs. Bowen. “We hope the community is proud and will take ownership of some projects to continue working on enforcement and implementation.”

Texans Standing Tall understands that passing and enforcing comprehensive smoke-free ordinances is hard work, but we also believe that Texas cities are up to the challenge of implementing changes that help create healthier, safer communities – Gilda Bowen and the Hidalgo County TPCC are living proof of that. If you’re interested in learning more about passing a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance in your community, please contact Steve Ross at sross@TexansStandingTall.org.

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 Kaleigh Becker, Research & Program Specialist, via email at kbecker@texansstandingtall.org or at 512-442-7501.