In an event that was part recruiting drive and part progress report, the Community Partnership for a Safer New Paltz invited local leaders to a special luncheon to praise those who’ve worked with them and to deliver a sales pitch to those not yet convinced.
“I’d like to extend my invitation for you to come and become involved,” said Pierrette Farber, the director of Community Partnership for a Safer New Paltz.
Farber delivered her address to a room filled with the likes of school officials — Superintendent Maria Rice, school board members Edgar Rodriguez, Patrick Rausch, KT Tobin and high school principal Barbara Clinton; elected officials — Susan Zimet, Toni Hokanson, Ken Wishnick and Hector Rodriguez; and cops like New Paltz police Chief Joseph Snyder.
The group, which aims to get teens and middle schoolers off of booze, prescription drugs and street drugs, is also the recipient of a $125,000 grant from the federal government. That grant lasts for five years and requires that Safer New Paltz re-applies each year, proving that they’ve been effective in curbing drug use in teens.
While the presentation on Jan. 13 offered a lot of anecdotal evidence of success — underage drinking busts on local stores, parent awareness lecture nights and the start of New Paltz Day — it was a little short on hardboiled stats showing that Safer New Paltz had done the job.
Farber said there was a reason for that. “We just started the grant, so the analysis is ongoing.”
One way the group hopes to measure its reach and influence is through a youth drug survey. The survey, which anonymously ask students to talk about their drug and alcohol use, are done periodically. Safer New Paltz is hopeful that the amount of kids who respond affirmatively to questions like “Have you drank alcohol in the past 30 days?” will go down in 2012.
During Safer New Paltz’s brief tenure as the go-to local anti-drug crusaders, they’ve had to deal already with a new type of threat to teen sobriety — Four Loko.
“I purposely put Four Loko up there because the things we need to target are the alco-pops,” Farber said.
One can of soda-flavored malt liquor holds the equivalent of five beers. In late 2010, the infamous drink came under fire for blending a potent mix of caffeine with strong alcohol, and the drink’s Chicago-based manufacturer had to stop selling the drink in New York State. However, with a tweak to the formula that took caffeine out of the drink, Four Loko and similar “kiddie beers” came back on the shelves.
Safer New Paltz and the local cops are still trying to counter the Four Loko problem. Part of how they’re doing that is with compliance checks and shoulder taps.
Compliance checks, as you might suspect, involve seeing if stores, restaurants and bars are only serving of-age drinkers. Those “shoulder taps” are when an underage decoy stands outside the convenience store to ask an older person to buy them booze. When that unsuspecting rube agrees and the sale is rung up, out comes the cops to make an arrest.
“The purpose of these initiatives aren’t to get children in trouble, or to get adults in trouble,” Farber explained. However, the stings are trying to get people to realize that there is a problem. “The idea is not to set people up. The idea is to educate the community.”
Safer New Paltz is also helping more bars to get TIPS training for sellers of alcohol to make sure that they’re carding people correctly.
Community Partnership for a Safer New Paltz also used the event to acknowledge the people who’ve helped to keep drugs out of the hands of youngsters. Superintendent Rice, school social worker Lenora Koffman and SUNY New Paltz Associate President Ray Schwarz all received a special nod as people who’ve worked to curb substance abuse among students.
Cheryl DePaolo, the director of Ulster Prevention Council, was on hand to give out the Philip Terpening Award to New Paltz High School.
Rather than framing information about tobacco use or drug use inclusively — think “X percent of students smoke pot” — the high school instead stressed what most students were not doing with their “Join the Crowd” campaign.
“Lenora Koffman was absolutely instrumental in this,” DePaolo said. ++