- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Bob Maxey took a couple hours out of his evening Tuesday to teach his teenage twins about what could happen if they drink before it’s legal.
The Mechanicsville resident went to MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital in Leonardtown to attend the regular Community Alcohol Coalition meeting, and he had his kids in tow.
“I think there’s an epidemic now with underage drinking,” Mackey said. “It seems everywhere you go now, parents are around parties, letting kids drink.” Others attending meetings said it happens at sporting events, school activities and in homes.
In October, St. Mary’s deputies busted 10 teenagers at Leonardtown High School’s homecoming for underage drinking, where one was vomiting in the parking lot, according to a police officer. And in November, deputies issued seven citations to underage partygoers in Colton’s Point. About 60 kids attended a post-homecoming party in a field, where several parents were dropping them off around a campfire with alcohol bottles in plain view, according to police. And, at the St. Mary’s County Alcohol Beverage Board meeting Thursday, Lighthouse Liquors in Charlotte Hall was issued a violation for selling malt liquor to a 17-year-old girl working in conjunction with a sheriff’s deputy.
Cpl. James Stone, who assists with alcohol awareness for the county, said that last year during one compliance check in one day he saw as about 10 businesses violate the law and sell to minors.
To raise awareness, the community alcohol coalition is promoting a campaign dubbed “Can You Afford It.” The initiative focuses on reaching parents, teens and other adults who are in supervisory roles with children. Coalition members place emphasis on the fines that can be issued to parents for “social hosting,” or allowing kids to drink in their home. Those fines can potentially add up, as high as $2,500 per violation, or more than $20,000 for an adult busted for hosting a party with several underage drinkers.
The campaign was a focus of the meeting Tuesday night and several high school students submitted examples of promotional materials the group could use. They selected one that had a tombstone, asking if a family could afford the risk of death. Others talked about colleges now looking on social media for clues about applicants involved in underage drinking. Students caught can blow their chances of being accepted to some schools, coalition members said.
“You don’t want to see any of your guests get in a car and get in an accident, ever,” said Jenna Mulliken, who works as a program coordinator for Health Connections at the hospital. But she said people have to be aware and responsible.
“We are not anti-drinking,” she said. “Adult alcohol consumption is legal.”
Jennifer Maxey, 16, who came to the meeting with her dad, said some parents are OK with their kids drinking. “Because that’s what they did when they were younger,” she said. Kids do it Friday nights after games. They do it after dances. “Some do it every Saturday night,” she said.
Jennifer Maxey said she hasn’t tried a drink. “I need my brain for the future,” she said. Her brother, Eric, also 16, said by coming to the meetings, “I’ve learned how to prevent binge drinking and avoid being in the wrong situation at the wrong time.”
Their philosophy is all a part of their dad’s design.
“I’m here to make a difference,” Bob Maxey said, “by being involved and getting my kids involved.”
The Community Alcohol Coalition was created in 2012 to boost awareness about binge drinking and underage drinking. The group is made up of community volunteers and the hospital helps coordinate the program, which is funded through a state grant from the Maryland Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration.
For information, call Jenna Mulliken at 240-434-7659 or visit www.facebook.com/CanYouAffordIt.