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County Fights Underage Drinking; Gets $625,000 to Fight Substance Abuse

Officials from Heineken USA and Westchester County kicked off a campaign to curb underage drinking Tuesday.

Westchester County officials are hammering home the message that underage drinking will not be tolerated.

Representatives from the county, the City of White Plains and Heineken USA met at the beer company's White Plains offices Tuesday and announced that they are teaming up for the "Don't Serve Teens" campaign.

The national campaign, which was started by the Federal Trade Commission, relies on advertisements, stickers and other materials to discourage the sale of alcohol to people under the age of 21. County Executive Robert Astorino said the campaign will be comprehensive and include signs at places that sell alcohol, on buses and transit shelters.  

"Far to often, we open up the newspaper or watch the news and see a young child pronounced dead because of drunk driving and this is what we are trying to prevent," Astorino said.

Although businesses are on the frontlines of the campaign, Astorino said they shouldn't shoulder the burden alone.

"We might never reach a point where we are going to get rid of it," Astorino said. "I don't think that's ever, ever going to happen. Let's be honest about that. But we must come together as a united front to prevent as many fatalities and injuries as possible."

County District Attorney Janet DiFiore said her office is focused on cstopping underage drinking in the community. She said those efforts included educating children and enforcing the law against businesses or individuals that provide alcohol to people under the age.

"It is never my first response to look to punish children who engage in underage drinking," DiFiore said. "That said, it is often, has been and will continue to be, a first response to prosecute people who supply and sell alcohol to underage children."

Thomas Haydock, director of emergency services at White Plains Hospital, said  the dangers from alcohol aren't limited to driving. He said injures from alcohol abuse can manifest themselves in a number of other ways.

Haydock, who's been practicing emergency medicine for more than 30 years, said the most common cause of death for people under the age of 44 in this country is some sort of traumatic event.

"You throw substances in there and it's like throwing accelerant on your grill when you're cooking on labor day weekend," Haydock said.

Frank Williams, director of the White Plains Youth Bureau, said the most effective way to get youth to understand the dangers of alcohol is to use a multi-faceted, team approach.

"It's about all of us working together — the hospitals, faith communities, the schools, the community — everyone, singing the same song and helping people understand that drinking can be deadly," Williams said.

County receives $625,000

In addition to the campaign, Astorino announced that the county Coalition for Drug and Alcohol Free Youth received a $625,000 grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The grant will be given out during a five-year period.

Vito Pinto, director of the county Office of Drug Prevention and STOP-DWI, said the grant will be used to fund training and educational programs throughout the county.

Antoinette Seifert September 07, 2011 at 04:09 AM
This is a great program but if our children are not allowed to drink until 21yrs, why do you allow them to sell & serve alcohol at age 18yrs??? They should be 21yrs. to sell or serve also!!!! This isn't right! Now is the time to really combat underage drinking!!! Raise the age requirement to 21yrs in order to sell or serve alcohol!!!
Janie Rosman September 07, 2011 at 11:59 AM
Eastchester has a program called Eastchester Communities That Care, which follows a model and uses a preventative approach. Sadly, often tragically, the issue of underage drinking has been going on for way too long be it at house parties, in establishments that serve alcohol, etc.
bernie stringer September 07, 2011 at 12:37 PM
"We Don't Serve Teens?" You can't legally buy a drink in this country until you're twenty one. We just lump all the twenty year olds who can't legally drink in with the teenagers. Who gives a s..t? It's not like anyone has a respect for this law. Actually this law teaches our teenagers disrespect for the law. You can smoke, drive, vote and fight, but you can't drink? Nonsense.
Oscar Delannoya September 08, 2011 at 02:24 PM
Go to WP any Fri or Sat night and see how many underage people are drunk . Kids are going to drink , smoke and have sex it's something that will never change .. They should use that $600K towards building a Playland in the Bronx so people from West Chester can enjoy the one in Rye again . Weekend's at Bernie's must really be a blast !!!
Aidan September 14, 2011 at 12:29 AM
I am all too aware of the number of efforts, hours and dollars invested in this issue, at all grade levels ... to small success. I spent a lifetime in that atmosphere. Sincere family inclusion in the effort is needed. A school has a influential period of time, but it is NOT a 24/7 operation. Nor should it be. It should be a re-enforcing agent. This has become a too familiar answer to so many youth issues that were once the responsibility of parents ... in the family setting. It seems, for one reason or another, that too many parents turn their duties over to some agent other than themselves ... and seem to think that such a choice is going to bring about a desired outcome. Life doesn't work like that. Families shouldn't function like that. They have no right to declare disappointment either. Some "every-once-in-awhile" topic touch is not going to solve a persistent teenage issue. It cannot be remedied by well-meaning educators who are now burdened with a great deal more than academic concerns. Schools now are expected to teach kids to brush their teeth properly and practice good hygiene. They warn them to stay out of the back seat, put down the beer, say "no" to the joint, skip the burger & fries lunch, and be careful on the internet. And the most disturbing trend? Running interference for sexual situations. It's all too much ... and it's all too wrong. Schools are schools, not general-life repair entities. Let's make this a bit of "retro cool"

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