On April 12, the Common Vision Coalition hosted the Redlands Underage Drinking Town Hall at the Redlands Community Center as part of the national Communities Talk initiative sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there has been a dramatic decrease over the past 15 years in the percentage of 12- to 20-year-olds who report any lifetime alcohol use: 56.2 percent in 2002 down to 41 percent in 2017.

In an effort to continue the downward trend, destigmatize the conversation on underage alcohol consumption, and increase awareness of the associated risks and adversities, the coalition brought together more than 20 middle school and high school student leaders to engage in a panel discussion with Redlands City Councilman Eddie Tejeda, Cpl. Michael Merriman from the Redlands Police Department, Redlands Unified School District Student Services directors Jon Best and Matthew Russo, and Redlands Teen Council President Steven Lujan.

The Common Vision Coalition thanks the panelists and their agencies for their participation and support of the town hall.

Through numerous student questions, each of the panelists provided a distinct perspective on underage alcohol access, consumption, and risks, while also detailing resources that their respective agencies provided.

Tejeda shared city efforts and initiatives on curbing underage drinking and Merriman explained programs enforcing alcohol sale laws and encouraged students to utilize the police as a preventive measure.

Best and Russo explained the various resources provided by the school district and Lujan provided insight into the youth perceptions, uses and access to alcohol.

The combination of these community stakeholders into a single panel delivered a comprehensive, necessary discussion on the importance of the prevention of underage alcohol use.

The town hall is the first part of a series of prevention programs from the coalition aimed to bring attention to the harmful effects of alcohol and drugs on youth and communities. The mission is to change lives through public and private collaboration to create healthy neighborhoods and proactively engage youth, families, and community leaders.