DUBOIS – Members of the public and community leaders came together Thursday night at a symposium aimed at combating the problem of underage drinking.
The event took place at Penn State DuBois Hiller Auditorium and was sponsored by the Clearfield-Jefferson Communities Drug Free Coalition.
Speakers included Magisterial District Judge Pat Ford; Paramedic Training Coordinator for AmServ-DuSan Ambulance Leo T. Pernesky; mother, wife, parent and student Jody Lucas Kulakowski, Deputy Director of the Clearfield-Jefferson Drug and Alcohol Commission Susan Ford and DuBois City Police Chief Steve Davis. Students from DuBois Area High School also addressed the crowd.
Pat Ford talked about the long-lasting effects of having an underage drinking citation. Pat Ford discussed how when he was younger, he was cited for underage drinking. From there he talked about how at each phase of his life, whether getting into law school, interning or becoming a probation/parole officer, he had to reveal/discuss that citation with his potential employers.
Pat Ford also talked about the number of underage drinking charges he sees as a judge. He said that he sees maybe 75 cases a year. These incidents are regularly followed with citations for disorderly conduct.
He also touched on the issue of family members providing alcohol to minors.
“Older siblings are a real problem,” said Pat Ford.
“It’s serious,” said Pat Ford. “People die sometimes.”
Pernesky talked about his end of the spectrum. Pernesky and other EMS workers are normally the first on-scene after something happens to underage drinkers.
“Alcohol is a drug,” said Pernesky. “But somehow we separate the two.”
Pernesky touched on the problems that can be caused from underage drinking, death, alcoholism, cirrhosis of the liver and others.
“It’s an education problem,” noted Pernesky. He added that kids are getting it, it’s the parents who need it.
“Especially, how do you talk to your kids about underage drinking.”
Pernesky said that he responds to about 10-12 alcohol related call-outs a month.
“Fortunately we don’t see a lot of deaths,” said Pernesky. “But one is too many.”
Kulakowski talked about the affects of underage drinking in the long-term. Kulakowski said told the crowd that she was an alcoholic, sober for nearly six years. She said that she began drinking regularly at the age of nine. She talked about the dangers of family members furnishing alcohol to minors, which happened in her case.
She said that at age 19 she entered treatment for the first time.
She said that at age 34 she entered treatment for the last time. Kulakowski said that she was given statistics regarding the chances of children of alcoholics becoming alcoholics.
“I was scared,” said Kulakowski, a mother of four. “I changed.”
Kulakowski said that she believes face-time is important for parents and children. She used dinner for an example. She said that in her family the children have duties to perform, such as setting the table and cleaning up, while the parents cook. She said that sitting together gives her family a chance to discuss their daily lives.
She also added that talking to children about their likes and interests helps.
“I think the most important thing is … parents, grandparents, future parents … kids will emulate you,” said Kulakowski, adding that if kids see their elders drinking during sporting events, holidays, weddings, funerals and others, kids will connect alcohol to those events.
Davis talked about his time as a school resource officer. He said that when he first started he could not believe that kids would come to school, smelling of alcohol and thinking that they would not get caught.
Davis said that underage drinking is still a social norm.
“It’s something we have to get away from,” said Davis.
Davis also agreed with Pernsesky on alcohol education.
“I think we need to educate parents more than kids,” said Davis.
The police chief also touched on the number of alcohol-related crimes he sees. He said that his department gets around 17-20 domestic calls a month, 90-95 percent of which are alcohol related.
Susan Ford addressed the audience at the end of the symposium.
“We’re looking to create a culture shift,” said Susan Ford. She added that it 20-25 years to do such a thing regarding kids and tobacco. “It’s (underage drinking) acceptable and it shouldn’t be.”
Donating to the event were: Efflorescence, Merle Norman Boutique, George Moore Enterprises Inc., Martin’s, Nail Time, Sheetz, Styling Studio, Toy Heaven, Wal-Mart, Leslie Jeffries, Clearfield-Jefferson Drug & Alcohol Commission and Zito Media.