. -->

Successful Prevention Must Engage the Community by Sharon Lutz and Brenda Esler

EmPoWER Somerset is fortunate and grateful to have many dedicated partners from diverse sectors of the community as strong supporters of our Somerset’s Initiative for Partying Safely (SIPS) campaign which aims to prevent alcohol-related problems among 18-to 25-year-olds, especially underage drinking and drunk driving.

Over the past few weeks, with the support of SIPS partners including the Courier News, MyCentralJersey.com, Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey D. Soriano, Somerset County Sheriff Frank J. Provenzano and the Somerset County Association of Chiefs of Police, we have run a series of opinion pieces to raise awareness of the significant increase in both underage drinking and drunk driving that is typically seen around the Thanksgiving holiday, particularly the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving, which we hope will be averted this year.

The increased countywide enforcement that will be taking place today and throughout the Thanksgiving weekend will surely interrupt some dangerous situations before they turn even worse. The law enforcement measures being taken are an important step toward protecting the lives of everyone on the road, and we are grateful for this historic partnership.

The efforts happening this holiday weekend are part of an even larger SIPS campaign that will engage the entire community, particularly 18-to 25-year-olds. Other ongoing countywide SIPS efforts will include:

"Be the Voice of SIPSnation.com" spokesperson contest — with public input through a recent poll on MyCentralJersey.com, one lucky young adult will be selected to represent the SIPS campaign;

SIPSnation.com — SIPS wants your input for this developing website by young adults for young adults;

Focus Groups — 18-to 25-year-olds will have the opportunity to help provide specific suggestions on the information, functionality, design and other features of SIPSnation.com. Incentives provided;

Techniques of Alcohol Management (TAM) Training — This three-hour training is the only alcohol server training endorsed by the New Jersey Licensed Beverage Association. The first two training opportunities are coming up on Nov. 30 and Dec. 7 in Somerville;

Parent Education — Many parents would be surprised to learn that "parental disapproval" is the most frequently reported reason that underage teens say they would choose not to drink alcohol or use other drugs. Parent education is another important part of the SIPS campaign.

The strategies that we implement as an organization utilize science-based prevention practices. The more partners we are able to engage in our communities, the more successful we will be in empowering young adults to celebrate safely.

To learn more about how you can get involved in any of these opportunities, please contact EmPoWER Somerset at 908-722-4900 or info@empowersomerset.com

We are also here to provide confidential assistance for anyone seeking help for a substance abuse problem.

Sharon Lutz is the executive director of EmPoWER Somerset. Brenda Esler is assistant director of EmPoWER Somerset.