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Local group unites to fight alcohol abuse among Latino teens

Local group unites to fight alcohol abuse among Latino teens

By John Newton
La Voz Latina

GEORGIA — It's no secret that young Hispanics living in the United States today are under a great deal of stress as they try to assimilate into US culture. Many of them turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with this stress.

According to a recent study, Hispanic youths are more likely to drink and to get drunk at an earlier age than their non-Hispanic white or African-American counterparts.

Youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience:
• School problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades.
• Social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities.
• Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk.
• Physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses.
• Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity.
• Disruption of normal growth and sexual development.
• Physical and sexual assault.
• Higher risk for suicide and homicide.
• Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, as burns, falls, and drowning.
• Memory problems.
• Abuse of other drugs.
• Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.
• Death from alcohol poisoning.

The big question today is what can be done to modify and/or prevent this behavior?

In Georgia, one state agency has taken a community-based approach that enlists the ideas and efforts of a cross-section of concerned volunteers to educate these youth on the dangers of alcohol abuse.

The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (GDBHDD) has joined forces with CETPA, a mental health and substance abuse counseling clinic in Norcross, Ga. to combat this problem with a program called The Georgia Alcohol Initiative of 2012.

The objective of this initiative is to implement statewide prevention strategies that are consistent with the following goals: 1) Reduce the early onset of alcohol use among 9 to 20-year-olds, 2) Reduce access to alcohol and binge drinking, and 3) Reduce binge and heavy drinking among 18 to 25-year-olds.

Last month, the group held an organizational meeting at Savannah's First Hispanic Baptist Church. In attendance were Pastor Samuel Rodriguez, CETPA staffers Diana Rosado and Nicky Lopez, Sgt. Armando Tamargo of the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department, Manuel Cabrera of the Latin American Services Organization (LASO), Deanne Bergen, prevention specialist with GDBHDD, and Armstrong Atlantic State University students Yara Rodriguez and Guillermo Montes representing HOLA, the Hispanic Outreach & Leadership at Armstrong program.

Rosado and Lopez led the meeting and said their immediate goal was to get more local Hispanics involved in the initiative…

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