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Acting Surgeon General Joins Governor and First Lady Carcieri, Public Officials, Law Enforcement, & Community Advocates to Promote “Call to Action” to Prevent Underage Drinking

Acting Surgeon General Steven K. Galson, M.D., MPH, joined Governor and Mrs. Carcieri, public officials, law enforcement, community advocates, and youth at the State House Rotunda on Thursday morning in a show of force to draw attention to the Surgeon General’s “Call to Action” to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking. Rear Admiral Galson is in Rhode Island at the invitation of First Lady Suzanne Carcieri, a member of the National Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free, to promote his Call to Action, meet with Rhode Island leaders, and engage policymakers in discussions about underage drinking. The Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free is an organization of first spouses, former first spouses, federal agencies, and other organizations working together in an effort to prevent and reduce underage drinking, especially among youth aged 9 to 15 years old.

Coming just days before April’s Alcohol Awareness Month, weeks before prom and graduation season, and just a few months before the summer vacation when many youth experiment with alcohol for the first time, the visit was planned to draw Rhode Islanders’ attention to the dangers of underage drinking and the importance of strengthening a community commitment to prevent alcohol use and abuse by youth. “Alcohol remains the most heavily abused substance by America’s youth,” said Acting Surgeon General Steven K. Galson, M.D., MPH. “This Call to Action is attempting to change the culture and attitudes toward drinking in America.

We can no longer ignore what alcohol is doing to our youth.” “Underage drinking is an urgent public health issue that threatens the health of our children and the safety of all of our citizens,” said First Lady Suzanne Carcieri, a former science teacher who holds a masters degree in health education. “I applaud decreases in alcohol use among Rhode Island youth over the last ten years - which are no doubt a credit to the hard work of a committed prevention community - but we continue to have some of the worst of underage drinking statistics in the nation.” “The costs of underage drinking and the devastation caused by this behavior cannot be ignored,” said Governor Carcieri. “The costs of injury and property damage are great, but the personal costs to the health and well-being of our children - and to innocent victims - are even more significant. We must stand together as a State to protect the safety of our citizens and preserve the health and future promise of our children.”

Following a meeting with Family Court judges to discuss the court’s innovative Alcohol Calendar focusing on underage drinking, and a meeting with representatives of the statewide Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws (EUDL) Committeee to present a progress report on Rhode Island efforts to keep alcohol out of the hands of youth, Galson joined dozens of stakeholders at a press conference to draw attention to the problem of underage drinking and the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking. “Combatting underage drinking is a responsibility for all of us: police, parents, friends and neighbors. If we build that community of caring and accountability, we are sending positive messages to the youth of our state and nation,” said Colonel Brendan Doherty, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police, a speaker at the press conference.

In addition to the Surgeon General, Governor Carcieri, Mrs. Carcieri, and Colonel Doherty, other speakers at the press conference included: Craig Stenning, director of the Department of Mental Health, Rehabilitation, and Hospitals; Attorney General Patrick Lynch; Dr. Robert Carothers; and emergency physician Megan Ranney, M.D. The speakers were joined by dozens of leaders and community advocates including Mayor Scott Avedisian of Warwick, Mayor Allan Fung of Cranston, Mayor James Doyle, legislators, law enforcement officers, substance abuse prevention coordinators, and youth.

The day’s events also included a State House meeting with local substance abuse prevention coordinators; a 1:00 p.m. meeting hosted by University of Rhode Island President Robert Carothers that convened college presidents, administrators, and researchers in a discussion about changing the alcohol culture on college and university campuses; a State House meeting with a small gathering of policymakers, addresses to the Rhode Island Senate and the Rhode Island House of Representatives between 4:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., and a Town Hall Meeting about the Call to Action at Woonsocket City Hall.

“As a mother and grandmother, I invite all Rhode Island parents and grandparents - and all members of our community - to join the effort to change the perception of underage drinking,” said Mrs. Carcieri. “It is not an acceptable rite of passage for our children.”

For more information on the Call to Action by Acting Surgeon General Steven K. Galson, M.D., MPH, please visit http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/

Related links

Department or agency: RI Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals

Online: http://www.bhddh.ri.gov/

Release date: 03-26-2009

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