Partying a problem … for some |

Partying a problem … for some

Matt Zalaznick

While the prevailing bar culture is, for many locals, simply a way of letting off steam on a Saturday night, the reckless atmosphere also can become a serious problem for those who party too hard, too often, say therapists at the public mental health agency in the valley.

“We’re living in party central,” says Jolene Crook, director of Colorado West Mental Health. “And we’ve identified that the need in the valley to address substance abuse is significant.”

Colorado West Mental Health has therefore created a Substance Abuse/Risk Reduction program to help adolescents and adults rein in drinking or drugs habits that are interfering with their everyday lives, Crook says.

“This program is for somebody who is not substance-dependent,” she says. “It’s for people whose substance use and abuse is getting in the way of relationships and causing them to show up late for work.

“It’s for people whose partying is getting in the way of what they want to happen in their life,” she adds.

The goal, says Megan Leitz, the therapist who will head the program, is to intervene before drinking or drug abuse destroys people’s lives.

“A person might get told that the next time they get caught smoking pot on the job, they’re going to lose it, but there hasn’t been any place to send them to get help,” Leitz said.

Only recently has research produced guidelines for responsible drinking, Leitz said.

“A lot of people have the mindset to drink responsibly or drink moderately, but we’ve never been told what that means,” Leitz says. “There are healthy guidelines.”

The guidelines for responsible drinking aren’t the same for everybody, she adds. Some people, for instance, are at higher-risk of becoming alcoholics because alcoholism runs in their family.

And those who have lower tolerance to alcohol would obviously drink less than others if they were aiming to be responsible, she said.

And because the people in this program won’t be alcoholic, therapists, won’t tell them never to have a drink, Crook says.

“This group is not going to say you have to give up drinking,” Crook says. “If a friend says, “Come have a drink,’ go have a drink. But this asks how can you limit yourself?”

The group will be made up of people referred by Eagle County Court, probation officers and juvenile diversion programs, but Crook says she also hopes people who realize they have drinking or substance abuse problems will sign themselves up for the 12-hour program.

“This is not a recovery group. The goal isn’t abstinence,” Crook says. “But when people leave the program, their substance use and abuse should be improved so they can get a grip and keep their jobs and relationships.”

Crooks admits, however, the valley’s party atmosphere can make it hard for a person to conquer a drinking or drug problem.

“For somebody in recovery,” she says, “this is a difficult place to live.”

For more information on substance abuse, Crooks recommends a Web site, For more information on the Substance Abuse/ Risk Reduction program, call Colorado West Mental Health at 476-0930.

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at

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