By Kirk Miller and Robin Morris
Certainly the two-part series on the problem of underage drinking in Havre by former Daily News reporter Tim Eberly is cause for concern. This problem is not new to our community or to hundreds of other communities throughout Montana. Havre Public Schools, the HELP Committee (which now includes the Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line), and other community members have been requested by HDN editor Karen Datko to present possible solutions for the problem. As "Partners in Prevention," Havre Public Schools and the HELP Committee would like to go on record stating that many sectors of our community have been working on solutions to the underage drinking problem (and associated problems) for years, and while some aspects continue to frustrate even us some have actually made a difference.
"Partners in Prevention" newspaper column. HELP Committee in partnership with Havre Public Schools publishes an article in the Havre Daily News weekly outlining things we do together on prevention. The title of the column is "Partners in Prevention." Jointly, we have a prevention specialist working with families in our school district to address many problems that exist in households in our community. The goal is to get the kids to school to receive a quality education.
Havre-Hill County Action Team. Havre Public Schools in partnership with District 12 Youth Court probation, the Hill County attorney, city of Havre attorney, police department, fire department, sheriff's department, Department of Family Services and mental health community established an interdisciplinary cooperative team for the purpose of sharing information pertinent to troubled youth. HCAT meets monthly to share information that one or more of the team members may be able to use in serving a child in the course of their professions. This team works with our most significantly challenged youth along the Hi-Line to develop productive solutions for their situations. This type of information is not publishable because it involves the privacy rights of individuals, but significant coordination has been made to help our kids and we plan to continue this process.
School-based alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuse prevention curriculum offered in physical education/health and through Project Alert.
School-based youth prevention organizations Junior HELPers at middle school and HELPers in high school.
Community-based youth prevention organization HELP Youth Coalition.
Canine detection. Canines are used as a means of preventing the possession of illegal substances in the school environment.
Drug-free school zones. Drug-free school zones are enforced on school property and no alcohol is allowed at events, (e.g. games at Blue Pony Stadium) whether they are Havre Public Schools games or others.
Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line. Havre Public Schools worked cooperatively this past year to enter into an agreement with the HELP committee to lease Devlin School for the purpose of establishing the Boys and Girls Club of the Hi-Line. Months of meetings and discussion were held to help bring the great opportunity to our community. The club serves members ages 6 to 18.
Developmental Asset Student Survey. A cooperative effort of the Mental Health Awareness Council, the Havre Ministerial Association, Havre Public Schools, St. Jude Thaddeus School, HRDC, city of Havre (Mayor Bob Rice) are currently in the midst of developing strategies to address student- identified problems through the use of a Developmental Asset Student Survey. This survey goes well beyond identifying problems in that it also identifies student strengths (assets) in our community.
Please watch for the calling of a community meeting to share the results of the asset survey and to begin the development of strategies to build assets for the kids in Havre.
Leadership High School. The Havre Area Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Havre Public Schools established Leadership High School two years ago. The purpose is to enhance student leadership skills through learning first hand about the importance of involvement in our community and to develop an appreciation of the diversity in our community. The business community, Chamber and Havre High School work closely to help students learn about the issues and concerns facing our community and how they can make a difference now and throughout their lives.
McGruff and Company. The Optimist Club, Havre Public Schools, the HELP Committee, and local business partners provide affordable out-of-school activities for all youth in grades 3 to 5.
Annual Prevention Campaigns. Numerous community partners sponsor high-profile campaigns that carry very clear non-use messages targeting youth (e.g. Red Ribbon Week, Kick Butts Day, Zero Tolerance for Underage Drinking, Senior Graduation).
Suicide Intervention. QPR Training for suicide identification and intervention.
We literally could go on with much more, but hope the programs, volunteerism and commitment mentioned here will help our community and kids to know that we care
about them and are working to help them create a productive future. The problem of underage drinking exists. We know that a part of the solution to turning this around is collecting good information and being persistent in addressing issues over time. We have a network established to do this.
Could our stats be better? Perhaps if law enforcement was not doing its part the numbers (problems) would seem smaller. The only solution is to continue to support the comprehensive approaches that are in place, and continue to monitor use rates and other behaviors associated with underage drinking. And, be open to new ideas and strategies.
Parents, guardians and the entire community are needed to embrace this issue in helping those partners who have been working for years to make this challenge subside.
Havre Public Schools and the HELP Committee stand ready, willing and able to work with any entities that are seeking to help as evidenced by our recent participation in the Community Asset Survey.
Kirk J. Miller is a Havre resident for 23 years, a concerned father of three kids, a Havre High School graduate, and superintendent of Havre Public Schools.
Robin E. Morris has been executive director of the HELP Committee for the past 15 years.