Focus on Youth! Underage Drinking Initiative

Read about how aDAPT was formed, our youth prevention movement!

BSAN's Underage Drinking Initiative was sparked by a leadership training and planning grant offered by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center's North Carolina Coalitions Initiative (NCCI). In year one, we were in the assessment and planning process and discovered that underage drinking is a key problem in Burke County; we have also garnered dedicated community involvement in the form on an underage drinking leadership committee and have begun to lay out goals and strategic plans. We are looking forward implementing these strategies in year two, evaluating short-term goals, and positioning ourselves for measuring long-term goals for three- to ten- years.

At a time when there is a great deal of attention focused on the use of prescription and illicit street drugs, underage drinking remains a problem in Burke County with serious consequences as supported by such data as:

  • In a 2013 Safe Schools & Healthy Students Survey of 1,634 high school students, 23% of respondents reported at least one drink of alcohol in the past 30 days and 14% reported 5+ alcoholic drinks (binge drinking) w/in a couple of hours in the past 30 days. (Burke County Public Schools)
  • From 2005-2014, Possession of Alcohol, Consumption of Alcohol, and DWI combined topped youth arrest reports involving drugs or alcohol for ages 12-18 at an average of 23% of arrests. (Morganton Public Safety)

Leadership within our underage drinking committee and BSAN membership helped us with a survey to find out more about this problem (Where are youth getting alcohol? What factors are supporting their drinking?) so that we can better understand where we can take action that makes a difference. More information about how BSAN implemented the surveys and collected data is HERE.

Below are some of the results of the youth surveys that were collected in the schools and area church youth groups.  you've accomplished over the last couple of months (319 responses by middle- and high-school aged youth) and the parents surveys which we held in March to support our youth findings (49 responses by parents with youth under 21). The graphic data slides are available for viewing HERE.

  • teens

    Click the Photo for the Slide Show of Data Around Teens and Alcohol Availability and Attitudes in Burke County

    According to our youth survey, 15.8% have had an alcoholic drink at least once in the last 30 days; 6.4% said that they’ve had alcohol four or more times.

  • 43.8% said that alcohol is accessible in an unlocked place at home — either in the refrigerator, on the counter, in an unlocked cabinet, or otherwise within easy reach.
  • In the parent survey around accessibility, at least 57% admit alcohol is accessible in an unlocked place at home.
  • At least 44% of respondents can get alcohol from people over 21 — 37.8% can get it from a parent or guardian, 21.2% can get it at parties, and 8.8% can purchase it at businesses where clerks are not checking ID.
  • Youth feel they can drink at home or parties without consequences; 35.8% say they can drink at home with their parents knowledge and 23.5% say they can drink at parties with adult knowledge.
  • From the parent survey, 26.5% say they feel it’s ok for their children to drink at home, and 22.4% allow their children to attend parties where adults know that alcohol is being served.
  • Some parents are not speaking with their children about the dangers of underage drinking. 13.2% of youth say that their parents have not had a conversation with them and 14.3% of parents say they have not talked to their children.
  • 100% of parents surveyed admit they know that it is illegal for people over 21 to provide alcohol to minors, but 8.2% say that they believe it’s still ok to provide it.

In addition to these recent surveys, we know more conditions supporting this issue that are unique to Burke County:

  • Shortage of law enforcement and state ABC manpower creates a problem for the Alcohol Law Enforcement, and retail locations that don’t receive regular enforcement checks. According to our local ALE agent, retails checks are only being made on a complaint-basis.
  • In focus groups, parents admit that they allow their children to drink because of societal pressure.
  • In the Burke County Public Schools drugs and alcohol policy, consequences of violation include a required substance abuse program; parents are required to notified by policy, but not to be involved or present in any way.

Some of this information is not so surprising, but some of it is definitely beyond our expectations!

What do we do now?

Our long-term goal is obvious - to reduce underage drinking in Burke County. We know we'll never eliminate it, but, as you said in a past meeting, we have to use our rich resources to make SOME difference, and through Burke Substance Abuse Network, we're poised to do that.

The Underage Drinking Initiative is seeking participation from youth, parents, ABC retail businesses, faith groups, schools, and anyone who is concerned about the problem and would like to help. To get involved, contact BSAN's NCCI Underage Drinking Initiative coordinator Rhonda Cook at