Getting funding to combat underage drinking

How does your community view kids who drink? What are your policies and strategies for this handling this issue?

According to the US Surgeon General’s report, The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking, underage alcohol consumption in the United States is a widespread and persistent public health and safety problem that creates serious personal, social, and economic consequences for adolescents, their families, communities, and the Nation as a whole.

Alcohol is the drug of choice among America’s adolescents, used by more young people than tobacco or illicit drugs. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA] 2006. The prevention and reduction of underage drinking and treatment of underage youth with alcohol use disorders (AUDs) are therefore important public health and safety goals. Every officer in the country understands the depth and breadth of underage DUI and its impact. Five thousand (5,000) alcohol related deaths occur every year among youth under the age of 21. There are also about sixteen hundred (1,600) homicides and three hundred (300) suicides related to alcohol (SAMHSA).

Youth are among the fastest growing sectors in our country and first time drinkers and binge drinkers continue to increase in number. Law Enforcement Agencies and their local schools and communities are working to develop strategies to overcome this challenging growth. There are many grant resources available to both law enforcement and their community but preparation is required to compete for this funding. As with all grants, organizational preparation is the key to successful funding. Preparation and planning also leads to better outcomes.

Identify and define the problem by completing a needs assessment
Begin with a fact search on youth DUI in your community. Understanding the problem is critical to developing the appropriate strategies for reduction of the problem. Determine the size, scope and nature of the DUI and underage drinking problem. What are the percentages of those fatally injured, who were impaired while driving? What is the number and prevalence of underage drinking parties? How does your community view kids who drink? Is there community acceptance or non-acceptance of kids drinking? Much of this data can be obtained from schools, county drug and alcohol programs, and other youth partners in your community. Your internal data will provide you with the number of arrests and types of violations by youth. If your database does not separate underage and adult DUI, you may want to consider a change in your data collection process to capture the real numbers and therefore expose the real depth of the problem.

Assess your own department’s strategies for underage drinking and underage DUI
Does your command emphasize the importance of supporting interdiction activities concerning the youth-impaired driving problem or underage drinking parties, etc.? What are your policies and strategies for this issue? Does your department have a strategy for addressing large underage drinking events? Does your department provide on-going training related to underage drinking? Identify what strategies are missing and needed to address the problem.

Identify the Gaps
By combining the needs assessment data and your internal review of your approach, strategies and policies, you can now build a stronger, enhanced or more effective program. Establish guidelines for addressing underage drinking and DUI which include goals and objectives, steps for implementation. Once you have a good perspective on what you have in place then you can identify the gaps. If you have the technology available, mapping your data and your resources can help you visualize the problem, see areas which are working and ultimately identify the gaps in service, programs and resource needs. With the mapping system you can assign a locator to youth impaired crashes, parties, high arrest areas, etc. This will give you an idea where you need increased enforcement or need to develop a new strategy.

Assess your resources
The next step to building a strong request for funding is to identify your resources and determine what funding you truly need. Review your Internal resources: What personnel do you currently have dedicated to address underage drinking? Is there a need for additional personnel or an additional program? Do you have the right equipment available for this issue? Best practice suggests that you need unmarked cars cameras, audio-visual equipment, buy-money, evidence containers, and portable breath testing devices. Does you department have enough of these resources to support an expanded approach to underage drinking and remain stable with your other policing strategies. Does your department need expanded or additional officer training for this issue? Review your external resources: What programs, supports and partners are in your community to assist you with your underage drinking issues, schools, school programs, parents, social service agencies, county service agencies, corporate support, associations related to youth, faith-based services and supports, retailers, restaurants, etc. And the list goes on. Assess what the community side is doing related to underage drinking and develop a partnership to assist you with you strategies.

Develop your strategies
There are four main policing strategies to consider for dealing with the underage age drinking in your community:

• Direct Enforcement Strategies: Such as sobriety checkpoints, party patrols, vendor stings, hotel stings, point of purchase undercover efforts, third-party sales deterrence, and controlled dispersal at large parties

• Educational Strategies: In order to support your enforcement strategies most police departments also provide or partner with other community resources to implement educational programs. DUI simulators, Golf carts with DUI glasses, educational presentations, which offer information to youth and their families on the effects of intoxication, the known risks and the real data about youth and drinking. There are, however, many vendors with driving simulators, glasses and other programs concerning DUI. Every police department must research each vendor carefully. The funder will want to know why you chose a specific simulator or program and you will have to provide data on the impact and outcomes of that specific vendor products. Some vendors have good data and information about their approach and tools and how the school or community underage drinking problem was reduced or impacted. Others have no idea. These programs can cost anywhere from $1000 per day to $3000 per day to implement. Do your homework prior to selection of s specific vendor. School and Community Prom and Graduation Parties are a good way to control the underage drinking issues which increase around these two life events. Working with your partners to provide a sponsored non-drinking party can provide for a safe party!

•  Program Strategies: By partnering with your school and community you will have more funding opportunities available. Grants for this issue are available from the US Department of Justice, the National Highway Safety Administration, The US Department of Health/SAMHSA, the US Department of Education, State Grants and private and corporate foundations. Funding for programs such as Project Safe Neighbor, Safe Schools, Lead and Seed and many more are available grant funded programs available to law enforcement and their partners.

•  Underage Drinking Task Force: Many communities have developed a task force as an option for everyone to partner together to fight this issue from all sides. Utilizing environmental strategies to address underage drinking has been found to the most effective strategy for reducing and addressing underage drinking. That means that the problem is attacked from all sides by the entire community of partners who have vested interests in keeping kids safe. The task force, due to it scope of partners, can offer a full continuum of strategies concerning underage drinking. All of the partners at the table can access different funding which benefit everyone at the table benefits. Each partner builds in their needs into the grant and everyone works together to develop innovative ways to approach the issue and save the lives of our youth.

Funding Resources
There are many funding resources available to combat underage drinking. Federal, State and private funding can be found.

Office of National Drug Control Policy, Office of Juvenile Justice programs, US Health and Human Services/SAMHSA, US Department of Education all have programs for reducing youth drinking and DUI, youth mentoring programs and safe schools. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Programs have representatives in each state to assist you with questions regarding youth and underage drinking funding. To find your state OJJDP contact, go to and click on your state

Each state has a department which deals with drug and alcohol. Most are in the state department of health and human services. Some resources can be found at your state’s department of education and department of transportation.

The Foundation Center Directory has the best resources for locating private funding for underage drinking and youth. Locate the nearest library near you with access to the Foundation Directory. You might also try the Free Child website for a listing of youth funding.

By completing all of this preparation prior to looking for grant funding, you have created the answers for most of the questions funders ask in your grant proposal. You have also developed a sound approach, determined your needs and resources and prepared your thoughts on what you need from the funding source. You have also reduced you time completing a grant funder search as you have narrowed down your thoughts to exactly what you need to have funded.

Best wishes with your grant writing endeavors. Please contact us with any questions you may have!

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