In Jacksonville, two-thirds of high school students have already tried alcohol and nearly one in five middle-schoolers say they had their first drinks before age 11, according to a 2009 survey.
Those numbers are unnerving for substance abuse prevention advocates in the community, but hope is on the way in the form of a federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration aimed at reducing alcohol use among youth.
“Part of what we’ve learned is that we can’t give kids the scare method,” said Susan Pitman, executive director of Safe and Healthy Duval Coalition. “It just doesn’t work. But it does work when we’re using education, positive reinforcement and enforcing laws and ordinances already on the books.”
Duval County will share in a five-year, $11.5 million prevention grant with Broward, Dade, Hillsborough, Orange and Pinellas counties, with the goal of reducing alcohol use among the state’s youth by 4 percentage points.