The Mercer Island Youth and Family Services (MIYFS) Department recently received a four-year alcohol abuse prevention grant.
The grant of $48,500 per year will be used in ongoing work to reduce the binge drinking and heavy-drinking rate of Island youth.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) awarded MIYFS the Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act (STOP) grant in June. MIYFS was one of the 22 coalitions across the country to receive the STOP grant.
Derek Franklin, senior programs manager and clinical supervisor, said the grant’s focus is on prevention of underage alcohol use.
“The grant will give us the opportunity to ramp back up some underage alcohol prevention,” Franklin said. “Although underage drinking has reduced significantly in the past 15 years, our youth are [still] binge drinking. They’re drinking more than four to five drinks in a single episode. Island youth are binge drinking more than some of their peers statewide.”
Results from a 2012 survey showed that underage alcohol use among Mercer Island High School 12th-grade students had declined. Data suggested that 30-day alcohol use among seniors had decreased to the lowest rate in more than a decade — about 45 percent down from a high of almost 60 percent in 2000. The 2018 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey showed that past 30-day alcohol use also had dropped — down from 41 percent to 28 percent. Franklin said compared to the state, Island numbers are still high and they have a lot of work to do.
According to research done by Dr. Suniya Luthar, youth in affluent communities are more at risk for underage alcohol and other drug involvement. Dr. Luthar’s work identifies the family, peer and school factors most strongly predict the adverse outcomes.
“It’s stress and anxiety, as well as depression that is linked to underage drinking,” Franklin said. “Our kids, in particular, have anxiety due to performance pressure — pressure to succeed academically and financially. It comes from kids themselves, parents and from a perceived norm and culture on the Island of needing to do well academically and financially.”
With the funds, Franklin said the Mercer Island Healthy Youth Initiative will expand and enhance current capacity, and undertake additional social norms media work to target past-30-day alcohol use, perception of risk and harm related alcohol use, and perception of parent and peer disapproval of underage alcohol.
Funding begins by the end of September.
To learn more go online to www.miyfs.org.