CHEYENNE -- Lisa Scholz hopes the Core Prevention Grant awarded to the Cheyenne Police Department helps change the community's social norms related to underage drinking and suicide.
Scholz, the department's Core Prevention manager, said the grant's main focus is to reduce underage drinking and suicide in Cheyenne through education, prevention and enforcement.
"We hope it creates that shift in thinking," Scholz said. "We're just trying to make a change."
The Cheyenne City Council approved the $470,168 grant contract with the Wyoming Department of Health's Mental Health and Substance Abuse Division as part of its consent agenda Wednesday.
The police department has partnered with the Cheyenne-Laramie Meth Initiative, Laramie County School District 1 Safe & Drug Free Schools, Stop Suicide Cheyenne and Grace for 2 Brothers.
Schulz said the funding will pay for a "Parents Who Host Lose the Most" and social hosting ordinance campaign focused on educating adults about the law and safety risks of providing alcohol to minors.
According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 41.7 percent of Wyoming high-school students said they drank alcohol in the last 30 days. About 36.6 percent of Wyoming middle school students said they had consumed an alcoholic drink other than just a few sips.
Statewide, 50 percent of juvenile arrests involved alcohol, according to the Alcohol & Crime in Wyoming report. The average blood-alcohol content level was .13 for females and .14 for males, the report showed.
Additionally, the report showed that 38 percent of minors obtained alcohol from parties, approximately 28 percent from home, almost 17 percent from liquor stores and approximately 16 percent from bars.
Laramie County juvenile arrest numbers for minors -- people under 18 years old -- were not included in the Alcohol & Crime in Wyoming report because they are not booked into the Laramie County jail.
On the local level, 47 people 20 years old and under were arrested for driving under the influence, which averages to nearly four minors each month.
Scholz said part of the problem is that minors see that drinking is culturally acceptable at public events like concerts at the Cheyenne Depot Plaza and Cheyenne Frontier Days.
The hope, she said, is to make people aware of the consequences of providing alcohol to minors and change the attitudes of adults who provide and the minors who choose to consume alcohol.
Additionally, the Core Prevention Grant pays for overtime to officers to do "party patrols" and enforce the laws in places where minors generally have parties.
Sgt. Rob Dafoe, spokesman for the police department, said that busting juvenile parties can be very labor intensive because the officers must wait for guardians to come get minors who receive citations.
"We can't release them back to the general public," he said. "One party can take several officers off the street for several hours."
Dafoe said the grant will help with party enforcement because absorbing the resources needed for an extended focus on underage parties into regular patrol duties would be impossible.
The grant also focuses on suicide prevention with an awareness campaign, conference and four workshops throughout the summer.
Scholz said the goal is to educate residents about the symptoms of suicidal behavior and provide intervention training.
She said she hopes to reduce some of the stigma associated with suicide.
"We need to get people talking about it," Scholz said.
The Laramie County Library is hosting a mental health and wellness workshop each month from March to June. The workshops and the conference, slated for May 2012, will be free to the public.
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