September 8, 2011 |

Task force wants to connect with youths

The first meeting of an alcohol task force Wednesday focused on connecting with youths instead of "preaching" at them.

Nine residents attended the meeting in the assembly chambers as a follow-up to an Aug. 31 town hall that addressed alcohol abuse and misuse in Haines.

Police chief Gary Lowe again facilitated the meeting, along with officer Cassandra McEwen. He said about 20 people signed up for the task force, but several were unable to attend on short notice.

"I’m not going to limit the task force," Lowe said. "If you want to come, come."

The group discussed some short-term goals for combating drunken driving and underage drinking. One strategy was to record public service announcements on KHNS.

"I’d also like to see a teen that’s been through it, that’s willing to give their testimony in a public service announcement, and also, I think we need to educate the public some on what are the consequences, what are the punishments," Lowe said.

Other ideas were to write letters to newspapers, request resolutions from the Haines Borough Assembly and school board, collect suggestions from the Haines High School Student Council, and designate a community building for youths to hang out.

"We’re not going to totally stop people from drinking and driving, we’re not going to totally stop people from drinking, but we can make it safer, I think, and some of that is just knowledge," said Jan Hotze, behavioral health clinician.

Officer McEwen revisited her town hall suggestion of an anonymous tip line at the police department. She said an incentive could be "maybe some sort of reward system for those whose tips do lead to a conviction" with the help of code numbers to maintain anonymity.

Resident Bruce Bauer said he would contact people to share personal testimonies of their experiences with alcohol. To help youths, he said, "you’re going to have to get people that they know, people that don’t represent, necessarily, an agency."

Teacher Rene Martin said that same issue limited the effectiveness of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Haines, because youths think participants in that program are "do-gooders" who are "preaching at them."

"They’re not comfortable in that realm, and they’re not comfortable with that group," Martin said.

Rodney Hinson, who works in behavioral health and is a tribal youth program coordinator, said the town hall participants repeatedly referred to "bad families," and he wanted to emphasize "every kid is at risk."

The task force’s next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, in the assembly chambers. Lowe said the group would start out meeting for an hour every other week.