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Report to the public regarding community forums on substance abuse


Over one hundred participants discussed alcohol and drug use in Chaffee County in response to Sheriff Pete Palmer’s request for community input.  Forums, sponsored by the Sheriff’s Office, Build A Generation and the Salida Youth Advisory Council, were held in Buena Vista and Salida in October.  The following are perceptions, concerns, and opinions expressed by the participants at those forums.

  • Our main problems are underage use of alcohol, marijuana and un-prescribed prescription drugs, although there are hard drugs and related issues.
  • Our community has an accepting attitude toward alcohol use as a “norm.”
  • Alcohol and marijuana are very easily accessed. There should be stronger law enforcement oversight, enforcement and penalties for those who provide these substances to our youth.
  • More and consistent education is needed for parents and other adults, as well as elementary through high school youth.  This should be collaborative (e.g. law enforcement, county agencies, community members, teens, parents, medical providers) and also available through the media and schools.
  • Parents need to know that kids really do listen to them and that they really do have power.  They need to step up and parent.
  • Adults are divided on whether youth should be taught to drink responsibly at home or not.
  • Parents need more consequences when their child is involved, i.e., attending drug court and educational classes.
  • More consistent consequences for underage drinking and all drinking and driving.  We can’t keep turning a “blind eye” because we are not doing kids or their parents a favor in the long run.
  • Medical marijuana, perceived by youth as not harmful, will continue to cause problems in education, attitude and enforcement.
  • Alcohol, tobacco and marijuana are gateway drugs.
  • Youth in Chaffee County need more to do.  Families need more family-oriented activities.
  • More opportunities are needed for youth to have a voice.
  • Perception that teens underreport their use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs on surveys.


What we know from research and studies in prevention are the following:

  • The later youth start drinking the less likely they are to have addiction problems as adults.
  • Adults role model behaviors for youth.
  • Parents are the #2 source that kids listen to (after their friends) and the #1 source that kids believe!
  • National and international studies show that allowing even moderate underage alcohol use at home leads to more alcohol use in college and later life than if underage drinking is never allowed.


Looking at community input and what research has shown to be most effective, the following priorities are being considered:

  • Strengthening the community policing model and promoting more positive interactions between law enforcement and the community, especially within the schools.
  • Increased parental awareness and prevention education efforts, especially within the schools.
  • An anonymous tip line to law enforcement.
  • Increased compliance checks by law enforcement.
  • Increased local TIPS (Training for Intervention Procedures) training.


Stay tuned for next steps and opportunities to get involved. Thanks to the community members for “showing up and speaking up!”