A Red Ribbon Week celebration kicks off today with the “Stay in the Game” media campaign by the Madison County Youth in Action and Madison County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy, said Jennifer Webb, a leader of both organizations.
Campaign posters will feature local law enforcement officers and athletes from Madison Southern and Madison Central high schools identified by coaches as students who are leaders in their school, are positive role models and who are drug-free, Webb said.
Webb hopes to make this campaign an annual program that encourage students to become a face on one of the posters, she said. The posters will be displayed at all county middle schools, high schools, some liquor stores and law enforcement agencies.
“The times call for innovative and creative ways to send the message that it’s not acceptable to drink before you’re 21 years old,” she said. “Hopefully, this campaign will bring this message across.”
Webb will unveil one of the posters at the county fiscal court meeting today, as well as propose a “social host ordinance” that would penalize parents or adults who host parties at which alcohol is served to minors.
Although “social hosts” might have good intentions to keep minors from driving while drunk or drinking in unsafe environments, she said, there are problems with that line of thinking.
“Whenever minors drink before age 21, they are five times more likely to become an alcoholic, plus, it’s against the law,” Webb said.
Earlier this month, Webb and students from Youth In Action began briefing law enforcement and legislators on their proposal to change the classification of “Alcopops,” flavored beverages that contain liquor, are usually high in alcohol content (approximately 4.8 servings of alcohol per can), and mask the taste of alcohol.
Reclassification of the beverage as a hard liquor instead of a malt beverage will keep them out of convenience and grocery stores, where they are often confused with juice, soda or energy drinks because of their packaging, according to a letter Youth In Action composed for local legislators.
In light of federal funding cuts for programs like Youth in Action, local and state legislation to curb underage substance abuse is one long-term solution to address the problem, Webb said. “We must have multiple approaches to a problem that’s so widespread.”
The organizations also chose to launch their campaign during Red Ribbon Week (Oct. 23-31), which is a national campaign established by Congress in 1988 to symbolize a continuing commitment to reducing substance abuse in communities, according to the group’s press release.
Red Ribbon Week raises awareness of substance abuse and the problems facing communities as the result of it. The campaign also encourages parents, educators, business owners, elected officials and other community members to promote drug-free lifestyles, the release stated.
In his remarks at the National RX Summit earlier this year, Gov. Steve Beshear reported that prescription drug abuse kills approximately 1,000 residents a year and that the number of citizens seeking treatment for their addiction rose 900 percent in a decade. One in three adults in Kentucky report that they have friends or family members who suffer from prescription drug abuse, according to the release.
The campaign promotes a few ideas for churches and businesses who want to participate in Red Ribbon Week:
Faith Day — Oct. 28
• Wear a Red Ribbon
• Hand out Red Ribbons to congregation members
• Conduct a session on spirituality and substance abuse
• Provide information on substance abuse prevention, counseling and treatment resources in your weekly church bulletin
• Emphasize Red Ribbon Week with special messages, sermons and prayers
• Wear Red Ribbons
• Hand out Red Ribbons to customers
• Wear red
• Offer special promotions or discounts for customers wearing red ribbons
• Offer coloring contests for kids
• Decorate for Red Ribbon Week
• Display Red Ribbon Week banners
• Display a Red Ribbon message on billboards
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.