In the fall of 2006, a particularly high profile alcohol-related car crash which killed two teens and injured others left communities in Lake County distraught. The intensity of this case rose to new heights as investigators discovered that adults present during the underage drinking party knew the teens were drinking prior to them leaving the home.
What was initially a tragedy became outrage and a readiness for action. People came together and focused their efforts on addressing underage drinking issues and the related consequences. At a county level, the Lake County Chiefs of Police Association (LCCPA) and the Lake County After School Coalition (LCASC) – a county wide coalition of community leaders dedicated to increasing access to quality after school and youth development programs in Lake County – developed subcommittees to address underage drinking in Lake County. While committees strategized approaches to prevent underage drinking, the same key stakeholders found themselves attending similar meetings at different locations all trying to accomplish the same thing with the same limited resources.
In 2007 the two subcommittees of the LCCPA and the LCASC joined forces for a better use of resources and a more strategic approach to this countywide issue. They created the Lake County Underage Drinking Prevention Task Force (Task Force). The mission of the Task Force is ‘to provide leadership and resources to reduce and prevent underage drinking and other youth substance abuse in Lake County’ and their vision is ‘to have a county-wide environment where youth achieve their full potential.’
From the beginning, the Task Force has been committed to underage drinking prevention using environmental prevention strategies. In the past few years the Task Force has progressed from a group of people who were concerned about underage drinking and its consequences to a cohesive team of community leaders with a well developed logic model and comprehensive strategic plan focused on underage drinking prevention and, recently added, youth prescription drug abuse. The Task Force has developed committees to more effectively coordinate activities and is now well positioned to implement its strategic plan with the much needed resources available through a Drug Free Communities (DFC) grant.