August 2016

JPHSA’s Substance Abuse Prevention Program Battles Underage Drinking & Drug Abuse

With one of the most innovative and successful Partnership for Success (PFS) programs in the state, Jefferson Parish Human Services Authority (JPHSA) is widely recognized as a leader in alcohol and substance abuse prevention. JPHSA, as a grantee of PFS, a program developed by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, seeks to address underage drinking and prescription drug abuse among young people. JPHSA teamed with the Jefferson Sheriff Parish’s Office (JPSO) in the past year to achieve these goals.

Substance abuse often begins as early as 10-12 years old. In a recent study, 50.5% of Jefferson Parish sixth graders reported receiving alcohol from home with parental permission. 

“Underage drinking is a community problem that requires a community solution. Our approach is multi-tiered,” said Jennifer Phillips, Assistant Director of Behavioral Health Community Services at JPHSA. “We bring the beer goggle drunkenness simulators into the schools and talk to students about early alcohol use and make them aware of its impact on long-term brain function and their relationships. We don’t want them to predispose themselves to addiction. And we also are committed to supporting the enforcement angle as well.”

Since a recent study found many young people in Jefferson Parish purchase alcohol for themselves in a store alone without a fake ID or adult, teamwork with Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office (JPSO) played a key role in JPHSA’s initiative. Sheriff Newell Normand worked diligently to address the underage drinking problem for years. Over the past year, JPHSA joined JPSO’s efforts by supporting alcohol compliance checks. In addition, JPSO, JPHSA, and others promoted updates to the Alcohol Beverage Ordinance that impose stiffer penalties for vendors caught in violation of the law.

JPHSA also conducts the mandatory merchant education courses for businesses cited after compliance checks. These responsible alcohol courses educate staff about the legal and ethical ramifications of selling alcohol to underage patrons. The curriculum emphasizes the science behind the life-altering consequences of alcohol on the brain development of youth.