This is the time of year when young people have many reasons to celebrate - proms, graduation and end-of-school-year festivities. It's also the time of year when minors are tempted to use alcohol.

According to the 2004 Healthy Teens Survey, 38 percent of Clatsop County eighth-graders and 52 percent of 11th-graders have used alcohol in the past month. To help deal with the problem of underage drinking parties, local law enforcement agencies are receiving training on how to break up those parties, said Jill River, coordinator of the county's Reduce Underage Drinking Task Force. Some agencies, including the Astoria and Seaside police departments, have received "party dispersal tool kits."

The tool kits are filled with supplies to make it easier and more efficient for officers responding to underage drinking parties to process minor-in-possession citations, including restraints, a pair of binoculars, breathalyzers and a digital camera. Although the tool kits will be housed at each of the departments, the intention is to have them available to other departments in the county as needed. The training and tool kits are funded by a grant from the Department of Human Services' Office of Mental Health and Addiction Services, River said.

On May 26, the Astoria Police Department will host an audio-teleconference training for the task force members. The specialized training focuses on underage drinking in party settings. It will provide information about how to prevent parties as well as how to break up such parties in a safe manner. Discussion will include information on how to change community norms about underage drinking parties and will put forward specific ideas about how community volunteers can be used to prevent and disperse underage drinking parties.

The national audio training is provided by the Pacific Institute of Research and Evaluation's Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center and Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency.

Clatsop County's Reduce Underage Drinking Task Force is a community partnership, whose goals include reducing alcohol availability to minors, preventing underage drinking parties and encouraging youth leadership and community education. Active members of the task force include Astoria Police Department, Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare, Clatsop County Health and Human Services, Commission on Children and Families, LifeWorks NW, Oregon Liquor Control Commission and Seaside Police Department.

For more information or to volunteer on the task force, call coordinator Jill River, LifeWorks NW, at (503) 338-6990, ext. 3.

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