A wide variety of interests have joined together in the Frostburg area to address high-risk drinking among young people between the ages of 12 and 25, forming the Frostburg Community Coalition.
The nonprofit group has the long-term goal of decreasing the percentage of high school seniors that consume alcohol by 10 percent as measured by the Youth Risk Behavior Survey by 2014 and to decrease the binge-drinking rate by 10 percent as measured by the CORE Survey by 2015. Efforts to encourage low- and no-risk consumption include a social norms marketing campaign at Mountain Ridge and Frostburg State University, facilitating MADD training workshops for area parents and discussing strategies to discourage the sale of grain alcohol in area retail outlets.
“It is extremely important for our coalition to include people from all demographics in our community to engage in this conversation,” says Lyndsey Baker, coordinator for the Frostburg Community Coalition. “We have completed free TIPS (Training for Intervention Procedures) trainings for five bars and retail outlets in the area to help staff reduce the potential harms associated with high-risk consumption.”
The coalition has authored a “Cooperating Alcohol Agreement” where, in exchange for having the TIPS-trained staff on hand Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, the managers at F-Bar, Dante’s, Zen-Shi, the Outback Lounge and Byrnes Store are provided free marketing materials that promote their business along with low-risk consumption strategies for their customers to look over. Free TIPS training is available to any other outlet that agrees to the same principles.
“I think being part of the coalition has been an excellent tool to bridge the gap between the bar, the University and the community,” said Amy Davis, manager of F-Bar, who said she has been able to add a growing trivia night every Tuesday with the help of the Coalition, and has seen fewer negative incidents. “Getting help from the outside sources to make the bar a safe place and better place to be is always appreciated. We want to attract year-round residents as well as students to our establishment and be sure they all feel welcome and safe.”
The coalition includes representatives from the Allegany County Board of Education, the Allegany County Health Department, the Maryland Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Social Services, Frostburg State University, Mountain Ridge High School, the City of Frostburg, University Neighbors, F-Bar, Western Maryland Distributing Co., the Allegany County Liquor Board and local landlords.
Frostburg Mayor Robert Flanigan noted that the Community Coalition is another example of how working together “is the best way to address the critical issues facing the community.”
The coalition’s activities are funded by the Maryland Strategic Prevention Framework Grant awarded through the Allegany County Health Department.
The coalition is working on prevention strategies in four areas – social availability of alcohol in non-retail settings; retail availability, especially in terms of alcohol sales to those under 21; enforcement and adjudication for those who violate alcoholic beverage laws; and a social and community norms campaign to address attitudes toward high-risk drinking.
Current efforts include the promotion of an anonymous police tip hotline (301-687-STOP) and added support for increased police patrols in the neighborhood immediately adjacent to the University’s campus.
“Collaboration within our community has been a crucial part of Frostburg State University’s success in addressing high-risk drinking, a behavior that often starts long before young people reach college,” said FSU President Jonathan Gibralter. “I am pleased that the Frostburg Community Coalition is picking up that effort in a broader sense to help create a model for other communities who want to work together to address this issue.”
The Frostburg Community Coalition meets monthly to promote its efforts to decrease the harms associated with underage and excessive alcohol consumption. For more information about the Frostburg Community Coalition, contact coordinator Lyndsey Baker at 301-687-4892 or firstname.lastname@example.org.