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By Melissa Ford
Submitted by Kristine Raino-Ogden
IMP.A.C.T., the Oak Park & River Forest Police Departments and Youth Services of Oak Park & River Forest Townships are conducting a community-wide forum to present new local ordinances recently passed in Oak Park and River Forest as well as the 2012 Illinois Youth Survey results for Districts 200, 97 and 90 on Wednesday, October 24th from 7 – 9 pm at the 19th Century Club.
Everyone interested in learning about the impact the new ordinances will have on our young people and their families, and how our teens' use of alcohol and illegal substances compare with others in Illinois and the nation, are encouraged to attend, including parents/guardians, students, educators, school board members as well as village, business, religious, library, parks, youth program leaders, health care professionals and others.
In April 2011, River Forest passed a new social hosting law and expanded its adjudication process to hear cases locally. In June 2012, Oak Park passed a series of new local ordinances regarding teen smoking, alcohol and marijuana use. The new local ordinances carry less punitive and more rehabilitative consequences. However, some behaviors that were previously permitted under the law are now considered violations. A teen in Oak Park, for example, can now be cited with a violation for being present at a party where minors are consuming alcohol or illegal substances – even if he or she is not consuming. These and other changes will be addressed at the Forum.
Oak Park Police Chief Tanksley and River Forest Chief Greg Weiss will present the new local ordinances and what teens and their families can expect. Health care experts will discuss new research and the new realities of adolescent drug and alcohol use. Sr. Michelle Germanson, President of Trinity High School will suggest ways that all community members can be part of the solution. John Williams, Director of Youth Services of Oak Park and River Forest, will put in context the 2012 IYS results.
This is the first time in many years that the public middle schools participated in the Illinois Youth Survey. What the results reveal about pre-teen use and attitudes will help the community and individual families develop prevention strategies. In 2010, the Illinois Youth Survey revealed a self-reported use among local high school youth to be twice the national average. The Forum will compare 2012 results with those of 2010.
The purpose of the forum is to inform the community about the new realities of teen drug and alcohol use and to encourage new approaches to solving this pervasive problem. "In order to change the behavior of our teens, we need to change attitudes. Not just among our kids, but among the adults of the community as well. The stresses, the drugs and the environment our kids experience are very different than what we as adults experienced. This is a new reality and requires a new response," said Kristine Raino-Ogden of IMP.A.C.T., one of the Forum's organizers. In addition to the sponsors, the Forum is supported by Oak Park and River Forest High School, Trinity High School, Fenwick High School, Elementary School Districts 97 and 90 and other local private and parochial schools.
Surveys on teen alcohol and drug use show that parent, adult and community attitudes are key in teens' decisions to drink and use drugs. A relaxed attitude toward underage drinking and drug use as an acceptable "rite of passage" puts children and their friends at risk.
IMP.A.C.T. is a grassroots coalition whose mission is to create awareness about the short and long term consequences of adolescent substance use and to facilitate an interchange of ideas and initiatives among parents, youth and community leaders and entities that have influence over the youth in Oak Park and River Forest and affect policy, attitudes and treatment for youth substance and alcohol use.