Underage drinking: the numbers don’t lie, it’s a problem

Staff Writer

    It’s time for parents to step up and be held accountable.
    That was the long and short of the message delivered by a panel of law enforcement officers, a judge, probation officers mental health professionals and even students speaking on behalf of Drug Free Adams County Wednesday regarding underage drinking in Adams County.
    State Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne, was also on hand for the meeting and spoke briefly about Indiana laws regarding underage drinking, before turning the meeting over to the panel. “Alcohol laws in Indiana need to be revised,” Lehman said. “Most of the laws on the books are somewhat antiquated; they’ve been around a long time. We make the laws and we try the best we can, but the people speaking after me (the panelists) deal with this every day. So I’m interested to hear what they have to say.”
    Aaron Schuemann of RISQ, which deals with at-risk students in Adams County, said the facility has had 67 students this year, with 20 of those students placed in the program due to alcohol or drug issues (11 drugs, nine alcohol). “That means they (the student) had drugs or alcohol on them at school or were drunk or high at school. I know at least one had to be rushed to the hospital because he was so drunk. So this is a real issue,” Schuemann said.
    Sarah Luginbill and Calvin Isch, students from Adams Central High School, spoke about the availability of alcohol and peer pressure.
    “It’s definitely a big deal,” said Luginbill. “Especially with prom coming up. We all know what happens around prom. I know after-prom is a big deal and it helps a lot to have something to do.”
    Adams County Superior Court Judge Patrick Miller said a large number of cases that come through his courtroom are alcohol related. “I get my eyes opened every day by the things I see. We had two people in our drug court, we were trying to get them off heroin — and we did — then they started drinking. And they didn’t see anything wrong with that. It’s just alcohol. Well, they’re addicts. That’s what got them started down this road in the first place.”    
    According to figures distributed by Drug Free Adams County Executive Director Kelly Sickafoose, 57.6 percent of Adams County seniors polled in 2015 said they felt underage drinking was very wrong, while 18.8 percent felt it was wrong, 14.1 percent said it was a little bit wrong and 9.4 percent said it wasn’t wrong at all.
    In the same poll, more than 50 percent of seniors said it was “sort of easy or very easy” to obtain alcohol, with the highest percentage of those students getting the alcohol from a parent or family member.
    When questioned about the penalty for providing alcohol to someone under the legal age — regardless of whether that individual is a family member — Miller said those providing alcohol for a minor could be charged with a felony, face up to 21⁄2 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. “This is serious. It’s not something to be taken lightly.”
    Decatur Police Chief Greg Cook said it all comes down to parenting. “Parents need to remember to be parents and stop trying to be their child’s friend. There’s plenty of time to be friends once they’re adults and capable of making rational decisions on their own. Right now, they need you to do that for them.”

    Do you think underage drinking is an issue in Adams County?