• Homer Prevention Project’s next step: community education
By Esther Hammerschlag
Project director MAPP
The Homer Prevention Project recently completed a needs assessment report evaluating underage drinking and adult heavy and binge drinking in the community. The report was the first step required by the Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant that funds HPP.
Homer is one of six communities in the state to receive funding from the State of Alaska to address Alaska’s two priority areas: reducing underage drinking, ages 12-20, and reducing adult heavy and binge drinking, ages 21-44.
Homer’s successful grant application was based on a community-wide needs assessment by MAPP of the Southern Kenai Peninsula in 2008-2009, which identified substance abuse as a top health concern for the community.
As part of the needs assessment process all six grantees in Alaska were required to follow, communities were asked to select a consequence of adult heavy and binge drinking for focus of their prevention efforts.
Based on data collected and community discussions, Homer selected Adverse Childhood Experiences as a priority consequence of adult heavy and binge drinking. ACEs can include such things as physical, emotional or sexual abuse, an alcoholic or drug abuser in the home, child neglect, or witnessing violence in the home.
Adverse Childhood Experiences have been shown to increase the risk for many of the leading causes of death including obesity, cancer, heart disease, lung disease and liver disease.
In addition, ACEs are shown to dramatically increase the likelihood of underage drinking, as well as heavy drinking in adulthood. This correlation is widely documented, and the Homer Prevention Project plans to focus its efforts on preventing the cycle of Adverse Childhood Experiences, underage drinking, and adult heavy and binge drinking.
The needs assessment process was extensive, and included collection of data from local agencies as well as other regional and state sources.
In addition, surveys were conducted locally that included evaluation of community perceptions of alcohol use and its consequences, an assessment of community readiness to address these issues and evaluation of existing resources in the community.
Some key findings in the needs assessment report include:
• Community perceptions are that underage drinking and adult heavy and binge drinking are significant problems in the community. However, as a whole, community members view this as a community problem, but not one that affects their own families.
• Major consequences of adult heavy and binge drinking identified in the community include the categories of violence, family and friend relationship problems, health issues and transportation safety.
• There is a lack of information available to the community on the effects of both underage drinking and adult heavy and binge drinking. Local youth report they want to know the facts so they can make responsible decisions.
• Seventy-seven percent of high school students in Homer surveyed in 2011 had at least one drink of alcohol during their life, and 41 percent of students had at least one drink of alcohol in the past 30 days. One quarter, or 25 percent, reported having five or more drinks in a row within the past 30 days.
• Twenty-four percent, or nearly one quarter of high school students, reported riding in a car or other vehicle in the past 30 days that was driven by someone who had been drinking alcohol.
• Ten percent of adults surveyed in the community indicated they had consumed more than five drinks in a row at least once in the past 30 days.
• In 2011, 46 percent of all arrests by the Homer Police Department involved alcohol.
• From 2009-2011, 47 percent of all assault cases reported by the Alaska State Troopers in the Homer and Anchor Point area involved alcohol.
• The average cost of hospital visits at South Peninsula Hospital from 2009-2011 for adults age 21-44 with at least one alcohol-related diagnosis was 23 percent higher than the average cost for all patients age 21-44.
• The average cost for patients with multiple alcohol-related diagnoses was nearly double.
The next step for the Homer Prevention Project is strategic planning. This fall, the project’s advisory workgroup will develop strategies to provide more information to the community about the effects of underage drinking and adult heavy and binge drinking, including Adverse Childhood Experiences.
If you are interested in joining the project’s advisory workgroup, or would like more information, go to www.homerpreventionproject.org, or contact Esther Hammerschlag at 235-0570.
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