El Paso Adopts Social Host Ordinance to Reduce Underage Drinking and Promote Public Health and Safety
On December 6th, the City Council of El Paso became the first city in Texas to adopt a civil Social Host Ordinance to help reduce underage drinking.
Youth and young adults are particularly vulnerable to alcohol-related consequences, including sexual assault, unplanned sexual activity, sexually transmitted diseases, unintentional injuries, and school and legal problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the cost of underage drinking in Texas to be $1.8 billion per year. If allocated based on population, the city of El Paso’s share of this amounts to nearly $48 million in healthcare, lost productivity, criminal justice and traffic crash costs.
The YMCA of El Paso serves as the backbone organization for the Shift+ initiative. The goals of the initiative are to reduce underage drinking and binge drinking in the Paso del Norte region. YMCA of El Paso staff members Holly Mata and Daniela Marquez coordinate the initiative and the Alcohol Impact Network, which includes community members, public health and safety organizations, schools and non-profits, and local coalitions. According to Daniela, “our network is focused on doing everything that we can to reduce alcohol-related harm and make sure our youth grow up safe and healthy. We know that most youth who drink, are drinking in social settings like house parties, and these parties put our kids at risk for many problems. We are so excited that the City of El Paso just adopted a strong Social Host Ordinance! It takes a whole city working together to keep our children safe, and we have a valuable opportunity with this ordinance to do just that. We congratulate the City Council for doing the right thing to protect our youth.”
Communities create and control the environments in which young people learn about alcohol and are at risk for alcohol-related problems, and civil social host ordinances are an increasingly common strategy at the local level.
Jana Renner, Associate Program Officer for the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, said “A Social Host Ordinance won’t stop underage drinking completely. But it will provide a law enforcement with an additional mechanism to help prevent some of these parties – which are particularly high-risk settings for our youth – and will help them hold people accountable when they do happen. These ordinances also provide a platform for community outreach and education, and they promote adult responsibility and public safety”. Bill Coon, YMCA of Greater El Paso and Rio Grande Valley CEO added that “Creating healthier environments and reducing alcohol-related harm is what the Shift+ initiative is all about. So of course it aligns perfectly with what we do at the YMCA: we support youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. We look forward to supporting our partners in public health and law enforcement as we all work together to keep our kids safe.”
The ordinance will take effect in 180 days. The network will be working with other community agencies and organizations to educate the community about the ordinance, as well as other strategies to reduce underage drinking and alcohol-related harm.
For more information on the Shift+ initiative, email Holly.Mata@elpasoymca.org.