ND: New North Dakota law working to tackle underage drinking, officials say issue is hitting North Dakotans hard
August 6, 2019
FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) – A new North Dakota law is working to keep our teenagers safe. From now on, when someone under 21 gets a citation or ticket for having alcohol on them, they have to head to the classroom. You read that right, it’s for an early intervention program.
It no longer matters where you are, a bar, grad party or maybe in your parent’s home. A new North Dakota law is cracking down on underage drinking.
“For persons who receive a ticket, a violation for the use of alcohol, they are now referred and required to take this class,” says North Dakota Senator, Tim Mathern.
State Senator Tim Mathern tell us it’s an eight-hour long evidence-based course that aims to teach instead of punish. He tell us other than teaching teens the dangers of alcohol, it could also end up saving the state a lot of money.
“We waste $160 million per year that relates to underage alcohol use,” says Mathern.
It’s an issue that health professionals say is hitting North Dakotans especially hard.
Valley News Live: “The issue of underage drinking, is it a problem here?”
“It definitely is a problem here, absolutely. Underage drinking is a problem, adult binge drinking is a problem. Pretty much any problem you can associate with alcohol, is a problem here,” says Fargo Cass Public Health Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator, Robyn Litke Sall.
But people like Robyn Litke Sall, are working to change that. She’s a substance abuse prevention coordinator with Fargo Cass Public Health. She also will be helping with these new courses. And while she tell us this latest law is a step in the right direction, she says getting to this point has been an uphill battle.
“We just have not been able to implement here because the culture of drinking here is so strong,” says Litke Sall.
Litke Sall tell us getting support for these laws has been tricky and it’s something Senator Mathern has seen firsthand.
“There’s an assumption that kids will be kids, or this really isn’t that bad or we’re just creating another law that is going to create judicial problems. All of those have been found not to be accurate,” says Mathern.
That’s something that will be specifically dealt with in these courses. As for Litke Sall, she tell us she is eager to hear feedback from you when the classes begin next month.
Senator Mathern also tell us research shows people who start drinking before the age of 15, are four times more likely to suffer from an alcohol-use disorder at some point in their lives. That’s compared to people who wait until they are 21.