Community coalitions at Bottineau and Fort Berthold Reservation are taking a new awareness campaign to the courts and rinks to encourage young people not to get benched by alcohol.
The coalitions have begun distributing anti-drug and alcohol materials at the boys basketball tournaments in Bottineau and Stanley this weekend in connection with the campaign, "Take a Closer Look ... Don't Get Benched by Alcohol, Prevent Underage Drinking."
During the Bottineau tournament, members of the community will be handing out team spirit hankies. The hankies are personalized to the teams and carry the campaign slogan. The Bottineau coalition also will be promoting awareness at the West Region Hockey Tournament in Bismarck Feb. 17 to 19 and at the district girls basketball tournament in Velva Feb. 25, 26 and 28.
Jill Schramm/MDN - - A billboard at the edge of Mohall advertises the community’s involvement in an alcohol- and drug-prevention campaign.
The Three Affiliated Tribes coalition will be handing out team-spirit wave rags personalized to local area teams from the Fort Berthold Reservation. The rags also have the campaign slogan in the team's school colors. The rags giveaway also will be part of girls basketball events at the end of February.
The campaigns will include positive statements made by announcers to encourage role modeling, community support and family involvement in children's lives.
Bottineau's promotion comes on the heels of an alcohol-free New Year's Eve event.
"This is just the beginning of things that we will be doing," said Sue Brandvold, public health nurse with First District Health Unit in Bottineau County. She said Bottineau's campaign was prompted by an increase in alcohol- and drug-related offenses.
"These numbers speak for themselves that we need to start a positive campaign for our students in our school system and the community," she added.
In a 2009 survey, 40 percent of North Dakota youth aged 12 to 20 reported consuming alcohol in the previous month, and 29.5 percent reported binge drinking.
Coby Rabbithead, tribal substance abuse prevention coordinator, New Town, said it is time to stop looking the other way where underage drinking is concerned. The latest campaign is designed to involve community members, families and fans in motivating and encouraging student athletes to use their talents rather than drugs or alcohol, Rabbithead said.
The Three Affiliated Tribes Boys & Girls Club and Tribal Substance Abuse Coordinator are conducting the campaign.
Bottineau is among cities in the "targeted communities initiative" of the state Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in the Department of Human Services.
The department wants to change the environment of tolerance toward underage drinking and adult alcohol abuse, said Pamela Sagness, prevention administrator, Bismarck. The targeted community initiative enables the department to work closely with motivated communities to tailor programs to their culture and needs. Some communities are new to prevention while others have reached a degree of success and public awareness in their prevention efforts and want to go to the next level, she said.
"This is a way for us to take state-level programming to the local level and really make focused change. Every community is different," she said. "This program really allows you to cater to the specific needs of these targeted communities."
The initiative began last September and continues to accept applications online. Communities already signed up in addition to Bottineau are Carrington, Minot, Watford City and Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood.
The department assigns a prevention specialist to each targeted community to assist in identifying needs and organizing support from groups such as parents, schools and law enforcement. Specialists assist in creating, implementing and evaluating the campaign.
Sagness said communities can be in the program as long as needed to achieve their goals.
The department's Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse also operates the North Dakota Prevention Resource and Media Center. The center provides a variety of free resources to communities, schools, churches or other organizations and individuals.