Survey shows local teens using more drugs and alcohol than before | VailDaily.com
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Survey shows local teens using more drugs and alcohol than before

Lauren Glendenning
lglendenning@vaildaily.com

EAGLE, Colorado ” A survey measuring alcohol use, drug use and sexual activity among local teenagers shows Eagle County students are playing with danger more than the national average.

The United Way of Eagle River Valley sponsors the Healthy Kids Colorado survey, which is conducted by the Eagle River Youth Coalition, a local nonprofit.

The Coalition has surveyed Eagle County high school students every other year since 2000. School officials and community organizations take the results seriously, said Mike Gass, Eagle County Schools executive director of secondary education ” even though some of the increases in drug and alcohol use, depression and sexual activity are inevitable because the population has also increased here.

“I think certainly we have a changing population,” he said. “I think we’re doing a decent job in school in providing some interventions.”

Gass noted the recent Battle Mountain High School drug testing policy as one example of the school district’s attempt to send the message out that alcohol and drug use isn’t cool, but overall local teens are using drugs and alcohol more than in recent years, the survey shows.

Cristina Gair, executive director of the Eagle River Youth Coalition, met with the Eagle County School Board in late January to go over the results from the 2007-08 survey. She showed the School Board that students at Battle Mountain High School, Eagle Valley High School and Red Canyon High School ” the three schools where the survey was given ” were definitely using drugs and alcohol more, but there were also some encouraging results, she said.

For the first time, the survey showed that students with positive parent role models in their lives were less likely to act up. This is somewhat obvious, but it was nice to see local data that proves it, she said.

“It shows how much parents really do have an influence,” Gair said.

Gair hopes to get parents throughout the valley more involved with their children and their education. Parents are also the key to figuring out what kinds of programs might work best for students, she said.

Local school and government officials and nonprofits are working together through the Eagle County Youth Collaborative Agreement to find ways to help local teens who need it most. Specific programs for steering local teens in the right path haven’t been developed yet, and Gair said various groups would have to find ways to fund such programs.

Gair hopes the School Board will discuss the survey again at an upcoming meeting and come up with ideas for how to help local teenagers make the right decisions. While the higher population accounts for some of the increases in risky behavior, Gair said something that still stands out is that “these issues aren’t going away.”

“We have to find better ways to address them,” she said.

Gass said the county has been really helpful in providing more school resource officers for the district, and parents are also realizing the opportunities for their children as long as they make the right choices. And in an economy where scholarships and financial aid will become more and more competitive, this is the time to make sure students can make those right choices, he said.

Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or lglendenning@vaildaily.com


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