Children First: Wyoming addresses underage drinking epidemic - KOTA Territory News

Children First: Wyoming addresses underage drinking epidemic

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Some are calling it an epidemic.

"41 percent of high school seniors will say that they had a drink in the last 30 days," said community prevention specialist for Sheridan County Thom Gabrukiewicz.

"In 2011 there were 110 citations for Minor in Possession in the City of Sheridan and 2012 that number went up to 194," said Neal Madson with the Sheridan County Justice Office.

Wyoming's First Lady, Carol Mead, is also saying the state has an underage drinking epidemic, and recently lent her voice to a public service announcement depicting young children drinking in a bar while looking depressed.  The PSA aims to encourage parents to talk honestly about alcohol use.

"What we're trying to do now in prevention is to have this message of responsibility," said Gabrukiewicz.

After watching the PSA 17-year-old Brooke Link and 15-year-old Bryel Link say using kid actors in helps drive home the point.

"It puts more effect on the commercial itself, that it's not just kids my age, of a teenager, but those kids on the commercial seemed like they were like 12," said Brooke.

"I mean like seriously, like, you're a little kid," added Bryel.

Terrill Matteson is a counselor at the Wyoming Girls School, a juvenile detention center, and has seen that early use can greatly hinder a teenager's cognitive development.

"They may hit 25, if they've been using heavily and still have the cognitive processing of a 16 year old," said Matteson.

To prevent that the media campaign advises parents to talk to their kids, and Brooke and Bryel agree that the ad is targeted at both parents and kids.

"I think kids who have parents that are alcoholics end up being an alcoholic because maybe the parent will see the kid drinking but won't thing anything about it," said Brooke.

To see the full PSA and learn more tips for talking to your kids about alcohol, visit http://www.talkearlyandoften.org/.

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