Town hall to explore solutions for curbing youth substance abuse 

click to enlarge David Mineta
  • Brendan P. Bartholomew/Special to the S.F. Examiner
  • U.S. Demand Reduction Deputy Director David Mineta attended the first town hall.
Too many Peninsula parents are unaware of their children’s alcohol consumption, marijuana use by teens appears to be at an all-time high, it’s too easy for youths to gain access to booze, and these problems are exacerbated by permissive attitudes toward substance abuse in the community.

Those are among the findings of a study on substance use that will be discussed at a town hall-style meeting Wednesday in Daly City.  The event is a follow-up to the first town hall meeting held by the North County Prevention Partnership in April.

 In addition to a panel discussion with local law enforcement and school representatives, the first meeting featured as its keynote speaker one of the White House’s top drug abuse prevention officials, Demand Reduction Deputy Director David K. Mineta.

According to prevention consultant Mary Bier, the previous event’s purpose was to identify the specific problems related to youth substance abuse in northern San Mateo County, while the Wednesday event will focus on possible solutions.

The information on drug and alcohol use patterns among North County youths is derived from the Youth Access Survey, a study polling roughly one-quarter of Daly City and Pacifica high school students. The survey has revealed trends that parents, educators and elected officials have called alarming.

While just 40 percent of teens responding to the survey in 2009 reported knowing somebody who smoked pot, that number jumped to 96 percent in 2013. And while 14 percent of respondents in 2005 reported knowing teens who consumed alcohol at home, that number had more than tripled to 44 percent by 2013.

Just one-quarter of respondents in 2013 said they felt local retailers were consistent about checking identification to prevent alcohol sales to minors, but that did represent an improvement, as only 11 percent of survey participants in 2009 said alcohol vendors were consistently checking IDs.

Bier said the Wednesday meeting will not feature panelists and will instead have audience members break up into small focus groups, with each group brainstorming answers to questions regarding possible strategies for reducing youth substance abuse.

One adult facilitator and one youth facilitator will help each focus group, Bier explained, saying, “Each youth gets to work with a very cool adult facilitator.”

Among those adults will be Daly City Councilman David Canepa. During his term as mayor in 2014, Canepa and his fellow council members increased fines for adults who allow underage drinking in their homes. This was done in response to the Youth Access Survey’s findings, which revealed that a significant amount of drinking on the part of teens was occurring at house parties.

Also in attendance will be Pacifica Councilwoman Sue Digre. Her town’s social-host ordinance, adopted in 2011, was the basis upon which Daly City’s similar legislation was modeled.

Other facilitators will include sergeants from the Daly City and Pacifica police departments, along with one college student who is also a Pacifica Police Explorer.

San Mateo County Deputy Coroner Tully Vogt, who co-founded the At-Risk Youth Foundation, will also be a facilitator.

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