Recently, over 30 community members came together at the Stafford Technical Center Dollhouse Restaurant for a luncheon meeting on what the priorities will be in dealing with the problem of underage drinking will be in Rutland County during 2011. Rutland County will receive over $30,000 to fund the county's START program (Stop Teen Alcohol Risk Team) and the meeting was designed to allocate our grant funds for the following year. The community members represented all the stakeholders- the police agencies in the area (Rutland County Sheriff's Department, Rutland Police Department, Vermont State Police, Castleton Police Department, Fair Haven Police Department, Brandon Police Department, Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles, Vermont Department of Liquor Control, and the US Forest Service Police), youth, who were represented by members of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) from Fair Haven Union High School, Proctor High School, and Stafford Technical Center and also students from Otter Valley Union High School, where there is not presently a SADD Chapter , and the two community coalitions that serve the Rutland area- the Rutland Area Prevention Coalition and Black River Area Coalition.
The food for the luncheon was provided by the Stafford Technical Center Culinary Arts Program, under the direction of Chef/Instructors Barry Ferraro and Greg Lynch. The group decided to spend the bulk of the grant funds for police officer responses to underage drinking parties in progress (reactive patrols), police patrols in times when parties may be more likely (proactive patrols), and police training and educational outreach programs for the community. Rutland County Court Diversion and Restorative Justice Center, which administers the Teen Alcohol Safety Program to hundreds of underage drinkers a year, received $5,000. Some of the money will be spent for police training, and some will go to assist in sending some Rutland County SADD members to the 2011 National SADD Conference, which will be held in Chicago, Ill. Other funds will be used to support the Tuxedo Insert Program, a national model program developed in Rutland County, which places a warning card about the costs of underage drinking in tuxedos rented for prom season and corsages for proms.
This meeting, which allows all those who are key players in the fight against underage drinking a voice in the planning of future activities, is also a model for other counties of how to run these kinds of meetings.