Operation Breakthrough has established a community task force to address the issue of teen drinking in the Big Bear Valley and, per Prevention Specialist Bonnie Shaffer, “The program here, locally, is to make access to alcohol for underage youth more difficult.” This issue has become more pressing, given the results of a Healthy Start survey, which was distributed to nearly 400 15 to 17-year-olds in Big Bear this April. Of the 78% who responded, the leading source of alcohol access for local teens was parties. Explains Shaffer, “What proved to be the case is that teens are getting their alcohol from the adults, that the adults are providing for teens. It’s not at retail outlets or bars, it is parents, older friends and siblings, and at parties.” In fact, per the survey, nearly 70% of local teens noted that it was “very easy” or “fairly easy” to get alcohol. Among the concerns of underage drinking is that, per the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, it results in nearly half of all teen automobile crashes and 50-65% of youth suicides. Further, as published in the Journal of Substance Abuse, youth who begin drinking alcohol before age 15 are four times more likely to become dependent on alcohol than those who wait to begin drinking until age 21. Shaffer tells KBHR, “We asked 13 different questions, but the one we want to act upon is the one that focused on how teens are getting alcohol. It’s not about the survey, but about prevention efforts here in the Valley.” To that end, Operation Breakthrough’s task force is meeting each second Tuesday at 6:30pm (at the Big Bear Christian Center at 800 Greenspot off Highway 38) to work toward policy change. “This isn’t any kind of an alarm tactic,” Shaffer adds, “but because things haven’t been done, we’re looking at loopholes that need to be filled. This ordinance we are looking at will be a tool that law enforcement can use that will make their job more effective.” The task force, which is open to parents and any interested community members, next meets on June 9; to get on Operation Breakthrough’s email list, call 866-5437.
As Big Bear High School prom is this weekend, parents are reminded that if a party is held in their home, even if outside alcohol is brought in, the adults or parents of the residence are liable. Also, in light of Saturday’s prom at Big Bear High School, the deputies of the Big Bear Sheriff’s Station will be presenting the national, student-focused “Every 15 Minutes” program to students this week, as every 15 minutes someone in the U.S. dies due to an alcohol-related collision. Tomorrow’s portion of the two-day program will result in a temporary closure of Maple Lane—so, for those headed to or from Sugarloaf, know that Maple Lane will be closed, from the Boulevard to Baldwin Lane, from 9am to 11:30am on Wednesday.