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Townsend looks to curb underage drinking

2010-03-25T00:00:00Z Townsend looks to curb underage drinkingBy ALANA LISTOE Independent Record Helena Independent Record
March 25, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Townsend hopes to be a leader to small communities across Montana in adopting a social host ordinance.

A group of 75 parents, school and city officials, and local business owners gathered for two hours Wednesday night in Townsend to discuss ways of preventing underage drinking.

The event, hosted by Broadwater County Social Services Committee and the DUI Task Force, offered statistics about alcohol use among young people, alcohol’s consequences to their developing minds and to society, and ways to mobilize to address the age-old problem.

Jill Flynn, a school counselor and part of the social services committee, said that according to a survey Townsend young people align with students around the state. A youth risk behavior survey given last year found that 40 percent of the high school students questioned used alcohol within the last 30 days and 25 percent reported binge drinking (having five or more drinks in one sitting).

Flynn said parents have a big impact.

“Teenagers do listen to their parents,” she said. “We are encouraging parents to take an active role in making this change occur.”

Felicia Wallace grew up in Townsend and said she remembers the pressure to drink from her peers in high school. Wallace, now a mother of two, says coming together as a community to show young people that underage drinking is not socially acceptable will help curb the illegal activity.

Wallace’s daughter, Kim Wallace, a 15-year-old freshman, hasn’t experienced the pressure to drink yet but she says she has witnessed her peers drinking and smoking pot.

“The peer pressure starts in middle school,” Kim said.

Elizabeth Wood owns the Wood Family Grill where beer and wine are served.

“There are a lot of kids in this town we need to watch out for,” Wood said.

One of those young people is her own 15-year-old daughter.

“I worry about who she’s with and what car she is getting into,” Wood said.

She said teenage drinking seems like a social pastime because there’s not a lot do.

One fix, Wood says, is to educate kids about the outcomes as well as provide more engaging activities that will give young people something to look forward to.

Broadwater County Sheriff Ben Knaff said there is nothing worse than dealing with the death of a young person.

He spoke about a wreck in 2008 involving four young people in which alcohol was involved.  Kelly L. O’Loughlin was a passenger in the vehicle that crashed on Highway 284 in the early morning of April 27, 2008. O’Loughlin died at the scene. She was 15 years old and a sophomore at Helena High School.

“It’s something you never get over,” Knaff told the crowd.

One next possible step community members will take to help make an impact is a social host ordinance. The ordinance would fine those who host the parties where underage drinking transpires. Larger communities around the state, such as Helena, Missoula and Great Falls have passed such laws in recent years.

Flynn said this type of initiative will help promote a different environment and send young people the message that underage drinking is not only inappropriate, but has serious consequences.

Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(12) Comments

  1. independantwoman
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    independantwoman - March 26, 2010 9:26 am
    I to applaud the community for discussing this issue. Hakon...good catch! And those of you that blame it on the issue that there is nothing to do...WTH!!! For one there are tons of things to do around here. For two, how about being a parent! Know where your children are, do activities with them! Know who they hang out with and who thier friends are. What a lame excuse! Lets blame it on where we live instead of taking the responsibility of being a parent! My children were raised by me a single mother and let me tell you they were very very very active in sports, community, theater, police explorers, etc... And if they did not follow the rules of the home or broke a curfew they were punished by me. I didn't blame it on the community of where we live or the fact that there was nothing to do. If they were bored and had nothing to do they had a choice. Mow the lawn, or invite your friends over to the house. That way I know where they are and who they are hanging with. Seems pretty simple to me! I'm so sick of people making excuses for the bad behavior of CHILDREN when in fact maybe they need a real PARENT!!
  2. jgoerke
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    jgoerke - March 25, 2010 9:35 pm
    Wildcherri, et al,
    Kids in New York City say they drink because "there is nothing to do". Give me a break. That's the lamest excuse I've ever heard/used. Yes I used to use it when I was a teenager. But I know now that it was just because we were too lazy to go find anything else to do. That's not the only reason though, we foster a culture of alcohol use and abuse in Montana, and teen drinking won't stop until parental binge drinking and drinking and driving is curbed.
  3. zackrav
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    zackrav - March 25, 2010 7:53 pm
    I applaud the parents, school and city officials, local business owners, and law enforcement of Townsend who gathered to discuss ways of preventing underage drinking. Change has to begin somewhere! We start by showing the kids that our community cares about them by holding meetings like this and developing a plan to help them make better choices. Hopefully the Townsend community will continue in their efforts!
  4. agdcas
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    agdcas - March 25, 2010 1:45 pm
    We live in Montana- there's TONS of stuff to do. If you want your kids to have the social opportunities of big cities- move there. I didn't drink until college- I always had responsibilites that made my 'free time' worth spending wisely.
  5. HakonMontag
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    HakonMontag - March 25, 2010 12:24 pm
    "...we listen to our kids and they go there just because of this..."

    Hmmm? Did we just read an instance of a parent knowing that their teen is going out and doing something illegal?

  6. abodox33
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    abodox33 - March 25, 2010 11:11 am
    When I was underage I never complained that there was nothing to do. I've always been able to skateboard, bike, go to events or dances and do many other social things. But most people that went and did any of these social things drank and did drugs while doing those activities. I understand that it's important to keep kids busy, but it is nieve to think that these activities will actually deter underage drinking or drug use. From my experience, the kids without rules and curfews at home were the ones that got in the most trouble. I always had to be home by midnight until I was 18 and I had to check in with my folks, and there was no way that I could come home drunk when I checked in! Might sound strict, but it worked and I thank them now for keeping me out of trouble that I could have got in.
  7. Vote Republican
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    Vote Republican - March 25, 2010 11:10 am
    Maybe if the Townsend sheriff's department actually did some work and talk to the studetns to find out where they go to drink and crack down on them it would help. Or pay a little more attention to the dirt roads in the county. Just an idea. I pick up empty beer cans all the time on Lower Deep Creek.
  8. mtjewel
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    mtjewel - March 25, 2010 11:00 am
    Although I agree with all the comments here, I know as a fact that the kids who are going to drink , will do it regardless of more activities there are. They will just drink and then go there. Nothing to do is a viable excuse but this all begins with good parenting. Set an example for your kids, then teach them good morals, spend time with them. Pay attention to who they hang out with. Don't be their friend, be their parent. Peer pressure is playing a huge part here too but sad to say, some will still party regardless.
  9. bigskymom
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    bigskymom - March 25, 2010 9:20 am
    one of the first steps that need to be taken is to crack down on the bars that serve the minors...comments from kids in Helena and surrounding areas are "let's go to townsend, we can get served there" Law enforcement needs to step up and take control of this, even if the owners of these bars are friends of the law enforcement or the county comissioners they need to follow the law like everyone else....yes, it still goes on even if they passed the last sting...we listen to our kids and they go there just because of this, I won't name the particular bars because I think they all are guilty but it's up to law enforcment to crack down. I also agree with wildcherri, if there was something for them to do, but everytime something is brought up like a skatepark, or the youth group building that used to be there, it gets thrown out of the commissioner meeting before it's even discussed.
  10. griz4me88
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    griz4me88 - March 25, 2010 9:20 am
    I agree with Wildcherri... Until Townsend has something else for kids to do they are going to drink. This has been a problem for Townsend for way too long. Every time someone opens something for kids it gets shut down. Taking out the bowling alley and putting in another bar great idea! The Adults need to step up and spend more time with the kids less time in the bars. IMO
  11. bigskymom
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    bigskymom - March 25, 2010 9:16 am
    we recently moved from Townsend, but have experienced the underage drinking issues, the first step would be for law enforcement to step up on the bars that are serving the minors and I know that law enforcement knows which bars are doing this, we have an 18 year old that still goes and visits friends often, they always meet at three separate bars two in town and one just out of town...and I agree with wildcherri, everytime something goes to the commission meeting about a skatepark, youth group program gets shot down first thing...something to do that the kids would enjoy would be extremely beneficial
    Report Abuse
    WILDCHERRI - March 25, 2010 8:16 am
    This is the usual case when towns do not have any entertainment for kids. They need to have something fun to do. I was raised in Billings and it's much bigger, but, there still was nothing to do.
    How about setting up some dances and other ways for them to socialize? Townsend is a beautiful little town, but, we need to do something for the kids here...something special. Maybe have a meeting with the kids themselves to ask what their opinions are and if they have any ideas. Action is needed.
    Plans are needed. The old saying, 'Do it now' applies, before it's too late.

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