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Galt hopes to cut underage drinking

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Posted: Friday, January 27, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:16 am, Fri Jan 27, 2012.

Twenty-four percent of Galt fifth-graders have had one or two sips of an alcoholic drink, and 1 percent have consumed an entire one.

Thirty percent of 11th-graders have participated in binge drinking, the act of consuming four to five alcoholic drinks within two hours.

The figures come from recent California Healthy Families surveys that raised an alarm for local youth advocates.

The group was in the midst of creating a parent guide that addresses underage drinking. The result of the four-year endeavour will be released Tuesday at a town hall meeting.

The presentation will include break-out groups for both parents and students, distributing the guides in English and Spanish, and watching a DVD created by former Galt High School students who are now in college, according to Kathleen Amos, Galt Joint Union High School District trustee.

As a member of the Galt Youth Alcohol Prevention Coalition, she worked on the guide alongside youth advocates Patricia St. James and Janet Munoz. The all-volunteer group aims to inspire local youths to make healthy choice that prevent substance abuse.

Their efforts have been supported by the city, the police department, the high school district and Galt Joint Union Elementary School District.

Former resident Kassie Lizama, 19, doesn’t feel there is more underage drinking in Galt than anywhere else.

“Now that I am away at college, it seems like underage drinking is just something many kids do,” she said.

“I do think something detrimental about Galt is the lack of other things to do with free time on a Friday or Saturday night,” she added. “Here in San Luis Obispo, there are countless things to do with free time.”

When she attended Galt High, she said alcohol seemed fairly accessible; all you had to do was ask, make the right friends or go to a party.

Like her friend, Hailey MacLeod, Lizama said she has never had an entire alcholic drink.

“I live with students from all over the world and their accounts of underage drinking in their hometowns are very similar to what goes on in Galt,” said MacLeod who is attending the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.

But St. James said Galt’s underage drinking statistics are high in comparison to other cities in Sacramento County.

“We’re giving parents information,” she said of the guide. “The best line of defense is parents. Kids do care what their parents think.”

Postponing drinking alcohol is the strongest message in the group’s guide. The chances of becoming dependent decreases by 14 percent for every year of delay in the onset of alcohol use, according to research.

“It’s not too early at age eight to talk to your kids about drinking,” Amos told the City Council earlier this month.

Alcohol also reportedly affects a teen’s developing brain differently than an adult’s. It can damage the area of the brain that is responsible for thinking, planning, good judgment and impulse control, according to Galt’s guide.

The parent guide was funded through partnerships with the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, California Department of Public Health and Sierra Health Foundation.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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