House Select Committee Releases Interim Report on Mental Health

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), people with mental health disorders are more likely to experience an alcohol or substance abuse disorder. SAMHSA’s 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates that 7.9 million adults in the United States have co-occurring disorders, which are defined as the coexistence of both a mental health and substance use disorder. This number highlights how important it is for prevention specialists, parents or guardians, and our state representatives to address the relationship between mental health and alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use.

SAMHSA’s finding on the prevalence of co-occurring disorders is one of several reasons Texans Standing Tall waited with bated breath for the House Select Committee on Mental Health to present its Interim Report. In November of 2015, Texas Speaker of the House, Joe Strauss, appointed the Committee in to study all aspects of mental health in Texas, including co-occurring substance use issues, during the 84th Interim Session. Throughout 2016, the Committee met to identify barriers and existing gaps in the mental health treatment of children and adults.

The Committee’s report makes recommendations on virtually every aspect of mental health and specifically addresses early intervention and prevention in youth. The report found:

  • Half of mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75% of mental health conditions will develop by age 24.
  • Approximately 50% of youth in the juvenile justice system have a need for mental health treatment.
  • Approximately 80% of state committed youth have an addiction to alcohol or drugs.

The report also provides information on suicide rates in Texas, pointing out that 90 percent of people who die by suicide experience mental illness and one in three people who commit suicide are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In fact, suicide continually ranks as the second or third leading cause of death of persons between the ages of 15 and 34 years old, and research shows that the availability of alcohol at home may contribute to suicide risk in adolescents. Knowing that suicide is one of the most devastating consequences associated with alcohol use and that suicide rates in Texas are increasing, it is very more important to invest in prevention and treatment measures that will help keep all of our youth safe and healthy.

With the start of the 85th Legislature on January 10, the eyes of Texas are on the state budget. A balanced budget is the only piece of legislation the state is required to pass each session. Given the 2.7% budget decrease already announced by the State Comptroller, our representatives will likely spend a lot of time looking for ways to trim the budget over the next several months. However, a major recommendation from the House Select Committee on Mental Health’s report is for the state to provide funding for services for individuals with mental health disorders. With that in mind, legislators may want to consider ways to increase state revenue rather than cutting mental health and other prevention services.

TST’s The Effects of Alcohol Excise Tax Increase on Public Health and Safety in Texas shows that just a dime per alcoholic drink can generate an additional $708 million annually for Texas. These additional funds could be used to pay for the types of services the Interim Report recommends. Additionally, a dime a drink increase has the power to save lives. TST’s report also shows that a dime a drink increase would result in 402 fewer deaths per year in our state, including 57 fewer alcohol-related suicides.

Thanks to a grant awarded to Texans Standing Tall in 2016, we were able to hire a Peer Policy Fellow to further explore how TST’s prevention work intersects with a number of critical mental health issues. Since August, our Fellow, Dr. Sachin Kamble, has been studying co-occurring disorders and examining the ways a dime a drink alcohol excise tax increase could be used to support prevention and mental health program needs. He has also been busy building relationships in the prevention, treatment, and mental health communities so that we can all work together to create safe and healthy communities for every Texan.

For more information about the positive health and safety benefits of raising alcohol excise taxes, visit TexansStandingTall.org to read the full report.

YLC Member of the Month: Andrea Marquez

When Texans Standing Tall brags about how wonderful our Youth Leadership Council members are, it’s always genuine!

Andrea, 16

To kick off 2017, we are recognizing Andrea Marquez as January’s YLC member of the month. Andrea was selected out of hundreds of applicants across the country to join Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America’s (CADCA) National Youth Leadership Initiative (NYLI). She is currently in the Train the Trainer program, a program that prepares the next generation of leaders to empower other young people to take action around drug use prevention.

“When I went to the Mid-Year Training Conference, I became aware of the problems communities throughout the United States face, and I realized I wanted to do something about it. I saw the impact youth had in their own communities and I was compelled to have the same kind of impact. I noticed how dedicated the NYLI members were and I decided to apply,” Andrea said.

The Train the Trainer program consists of five phases. Andrea completed the second phase of the training on January 16, which required her to travel to Arlington, Virginia. In phases three, four and five, she will go to the CADCA National Leadership Forum and Mid-Year Training as a “trainer in training” where a trainer will guide her through the conferences, The fourth phase will be participating in conference and video calls, and in the fifth phase she will graduate. Once she graduates, she will officially be a CADCA NYLI  Trainer.

“I hope to gain more knowledge and awareness about drug-use in different communities throughout the United States. I also hope to obtain more information about the effects drugs have on communities,” Andrea said.

Andrea attended CADCA’s Mid-Year Training in July 2016 as part of Texans Standing Tall’s Youth Leadership Council. After seeing the NYLI members in action, Andrea was inspired to expand her statewide leadership role to a national one by getting involved in the program.

“I met many members of the NYLI and I saw how passionate they were about the things they were doing. I realized that I was passionate about these issues too,” she said.

Andrea hopes to use the leadership skills she develops to make an impact in the lives of the less privileged in this world. She recognizes how discrimination and a lack of care can affect the distribution of alcohol and the level of damage it does to communities.

“I hope to become a voice for those without one, and I aspire to end the inequality so many people face. I want to become an advocate and stand up for the little guy, the minority. Joining the National Youth Leadership Initiative will help me better understand why drug-abuse is a problem throughout the nation, and I hope that this knowledge will help me reach my goals,” she said.

 

 

 

Keurig and Anheuser-Busch InBev Team Up For New Alcohol Product

Keurig and Anheuser-Busch InBev announced in early January that they were teaming up to create an appliance that can dispense beer, spirits, mixers, and cocktails in the home.

The companies are still researching how the product will work, but this premature announcement, without so much as a prototype, is troubling for anyone concerned with preventing youth from using alcohol.

Alcohol remains the most used substance by Texas youth. Texans Standing Tall, along with our partners, have taken to the front lines to end the normalization of alcohol for teenagers and young college students. Products like the one Keurig/Anheuser-Busch have planned and SodaStream’s in-home beer brewer (sold in European markets with plans to spread to others) make it easier for youth to access alcohol by having alcoholic beverages more readily available in the home.

These creations add to a growing list of challenges parents and prevention specialists face while working so hard to keep our communities safe. The alcohol industry’s innovative ways to appeal to youth are why Texans Standing Tall focuses on reversing the normalization of alcohol with evidence-based policies like social host ordinances. Since most youth get their alcohol from social settings, limiting youth access at parties and other social events can both reduce youth alcohol consumption and decrease the negative consequences that occur as a result. This includes things like unplanned sexual activity, sexual assault, drinking and driving, property damage, binge drinking, violence/fights, and combination drug use.

“According to the Institute of Alcohol Studies, alcohol use is the leading cause of death, disease, and disability worldwide for people aged 15-49.”

A press release on Anheuser-Busch’s website says that the North American market will be the company’s primary focus for the product. Of course, this isn’t the first time Anheuser-Bush InBev has targeted the United States with gimmicks. Remember when we reported in mid-2016 about their exploitation of American imagery and sentiment to promote their product when they temporarily renamed their beer? According to the Institute of Alcohol Studies, alcohol use is the leading cause of death, disease, and disability worldwide for people aged 15-49. This is a public health pandemic and deserves serious attention, not more gimmicks and novelty products.

The company did not specify a product name or a timeline for when it will hit a shelf near you, but Texans Standing Tall will be keeping an eye on its availability to make sure our fellow community lifeguards are prepared for addressing new threats to our youth and social access challenges. If you are concerned about underage alcohol use in your community, contact Brian Lemons or Libby Banks for more information about how a social host ordinance works and controlled party dispersal trainings.

January is Nation Birth Defects Prevention Month

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. While there are many defects that are caused by genetics and other uncontrolled variables, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) are 100 percent preventable.

FASD is an umbrella term used to describe birth defects that occur when alcohol is consumed during pregnancy, resulting in a range of physical and mental birth defects. The Texas Office for Prevention of Developmental Disabilities estimates that 3,800 babies are born with some form of FASD each year.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is the least common but most severe of the FASDs. However, research shows that FAS costs the US $3.6 billion dollars every year. The average cost of care for an individual is estimated around $2 million per year, but can reach as high as $4 million per year for more severe cases.

Modern research confirms what humans have suspected for centuries: alcohol has negative effects on unborn children. Greek philosopher Aristotle observed that children of drunken women were “morose and languid.” In the 1700s and 1800s, two different British surveys examined the effects of alcohol in correlation with mothers who consumed alcohol and found alcohol consumption during pregnancy affected child development. FAS was first described in the modern medical era in France in 1968, then again in the United States in 1973.

What you should know:

  1. There is no cure for FASD.
  2. The central nervous system and brain are developing throughout the entirety of the pregnancy. Any kind of alcohol intake at any time during the pregnancy can result in “hidden” birth defects.
  3. It is possible to accommodate a child born with FASD, but the effects cannot be changed.
  4. “Secondary Disabilities” like alcohol and drug abuse, mental health, school disruption, trouble with the law, and problems with employment can emerge because of FASD.
  5. FASD is 100 percent preventable.

Girls now outpace boys in alcohol consumption. Misinformation about the health risks associated with pairing alcohol with pregnancy continues to flood social media. These ever-evolving trends around alcohol use, along with budget cuts to prevention, and limited to access to healthcare are why prevention specialists must continue working to educate about the risks associated with alcohol use; the health and safety of our youth, present and future, are counting on it. There is no safe amount of any kind of alcohol to drink during pregnancy.

This year, Texans Standing Tall’s Statewide Summit will explore the effects of FASD with a presentation from national speaker, Nora Boesem. Boesem and her husband have fostered over 100 children living with FASD for the state of South Dakota and the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe. She is the founder of Roots to Wings and has given a TedX talk on FASD.

Prevent Risky Behavior This Holiday Season

As finals put a bow on the fall semester, high school and college students are beginning to make plans to get together for parties or reunions as friends gather back home. With time on their hands and a festive season, there are many opportunities for the dangers of alcohol use to jingle all the way into their young lives. Along with the holiday gatherings comes the frightful increase of alcohol-fueled risky behavior like unwanted or unplanned sex, fights including alcohol-related car crashes. With the semester ending, now is an extremely important time to discuss the dangers of drinking and driving with the youth in your life.

Many parents believe allowing their children and their children’s friends to consume alcohol under their roof encourages healthier attitudes toward alcohol, but in truth, alcohol consumption by underage youth increases the risks of unwanted or unplanned sex, fights, homicides, and suicides. Parents also believe that taking the keys away from youth will prevent them from drinking and driving, but they may not be aware that youth are more likely to binge drink outside of the home when parents allow alcohol consumption in the home. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drivers ages 16-20 are 17 times more likely to die in a car crash when they have a high blood alcohol concentration compared to when they have not been drinking. The CDC also reports that the chances for alcohol abuse increases when people begin drinking in their teenage years and The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reports that 90 percent of addictions begin in the teenage years.

Modeling good decision-making with alcohol is an effective approach to preventing your teens from making risky choices. Parents should also consider a “rules of the road” contract with their youth. Studies show that the children of parents who establish and enforce rules around alcohol make positive decisions when it comes to drinking and driving.

A good way to lead any conversation with youth is to remind them of the Zero Tolerance Laws in Texas, which makes it illegal to consume alcohol under the age of 21. It does not matter if the substance is provided by a friend’s parent, it is still illegal in the state of Texas.

Texans Standing Tall is a resource for coalitions and communities across the state working to address youth social access to alcohol. A long-term, community-based solution that TST educates about and promotes is a strategy called a civil social host ordinance. A civil social host ordinance is a city ordinance that holds people accountable for providing the location for underage drinking parties. Our partners at Circles of San Antonio are working toward a healthier and safer community through a social host ordinance. The city of El Paso recently passed such an ordinance. We are hoping to see many more around our state.

If you are interested in learning more about how a civil social host ordinance works:

  • visit our website
  • contact TST’s Strategy Specialist Brian Lemons
  • contact Community Mobilization Coordinator Libby Banks.