By David Condry, Above The Influence Coalition

Underage Drinking is an issue most communities have to deal with and Benton County is no exception. In 2008, 40% of Benton County 11th graders reported using alcohol but those numbers have gradually declined since that time. As of 2014, 21% of 11th graders report using alcohol during the past 30 days of being surveyed. While the decline in students using alcohol is worth noting, it does not change the reality that underage drinking is still an issue in our communities that must be addressed.

For a number of years efforts have been made to address underage drinking through several prevention strategies. One strategy that has been implemented in Benton County and the state of Iowa is known as Social Host. The purpose of this prevention strategy is to hold individuals responsible for providing teens a place to consume alcohol. These efforts target those that provide the environment and situations for underage drinking and even drug use to take place.

In September, a Social Host Ordinance was officially put into effect by the Belle Plaine City Council. Under this ordinance adults who knowingly allows a person age 18 or younger to consume alcohol or other illegal substances on property under their control would be subject to a $500 fine. Second offense would be a fine of $1,000 while every offense after would be $1,500.

The adoption of Social Host provides another tool to law enforcement as they serve to keep our community safe from the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse. In addition, Social Host has the purpose of taking a community stance against adults providing opportunities for youth to use substances.

At this time Vinton, Shellsburg, Newhall, Van Horne and Blairstown have also adopted Social Host for their communities. Efforts are currently being made to present Social Host to the remaining communities in Benton County. For more information on Social Host or Above the Influence, visit our website at www.bcati.com.