Note: In an effort to highlight the prevention programs that are available in Mifflin County, Mifflin County Communities That Care (CTC) is offering a new series that will focus on one service provider each month. CTC offers this information with the purpose of strengthening our families and community.

Most people agree underage drinking is an issue in our community. However, many of them may be unsure of just how many ways it can create problems for not only those minors engaging in the behavior, but also their family, friends, and even innocent bystanders.

The monetary costs associated with Underage Drinking are significant, and youthful offenders aren’t often in a position to pay these costs themselves, putting a financial burden on their parents.

Even costlier are the fines associated with DUI and Furnishing Alcohol to Minors, which fines can reach into the thousands of dollars.

Yet the most costly effects are those that have nothing to do with money. Too frequently, we see fathers, uncles, cousins, and family friends allowing minors to drink beer at deer camp because it is a “rite of passage’, or mothers who say “My daughter and her friends can drink to celebrate graduation, I’ll just make them stay here and take their keys.” These seem like innocent gestures, but they create both short and long term problems.

Adults cannot control a house or camp full of intoxicated minors, regardless of how hard they try. Kids find ways of getting away with things. Allowing the above mentioned behaviors greatly increases the chances of property damage, teen pregnancy, injuries, and even death.

Performing my job as a juvenile probation officer, I see many serious offenses, such as assault, theft, burglary, and sex offenses that are directly attributable to binge drinking by minors.

Consider this: at age 16, kids are just learning to drive, so operating a motor vehicle requires all of their attention to drive safely and avoid accidents. At this same age, they’ve had little to no experience with alcohol and often drink an excessive amount that brings on severe physical impairment. I shouldn’t need to elaborate on how mixing these two things can have tragic consequences.

In the long term, statistics show that those who begin drinking at a young age have a much greater risk of becoming an alcoholic than those who don’t imbibe until they reach the legal drinking age. The behaviors mentioned above often have consequences that change the lives of many people forever.

Please consider these things the next time you want to drink underage or provide alcohol to minors; please make the right decision.

If you don’t make the right decision, I hope the only thing it costs you is money.