PARIS – A public forum will be held on April 10 at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School to discuss the problem of teenage alcohol abuse and how the community should respond to help control it.

State Attorney General Steven Rowe will be a featured speaker, along with law enforcement officials from local agencies, emergency-room staff from Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway, school staff and students.

The Underage Drinking Forum is sponsored by Healthy Oxford Hills, Healthy Maine Partnership, and the state Department of Health and Human Services, with funding from the Drug-Free Communities Program of the Maine Office of Substance Abuse.

The forum will be held at the high school from 6 to 8 p.m. Students, parents and community members are invited to attend.

“Every town has issues with underage drinking, whether they are large or small,” Libby Graffam, assistant director and youth advocacy coordinator at Healthy Oxford Hills, said Friday. “If we don’t start dealing with it or working on projects to help get it under control, it’s only going to get worse.”

Graffam said parents need to be positive role models regarding substance abuse and not exacerbate the problem of underage drinking by providing alcohol to kids.

“We have parents who feel it’s OK to give alcohol to kids as long as they take their keys away. It’s not,” she said. “Kids get the wrong message. You can have a good time without having alcohol.”

According to the 2004 Maine Youth Drug and Alcohol Use Survey, 39.8 percent of students in grades 9 through 12 in Oxford County reported that alcohol is “very easy” to get. In addition, the survey shows that 22.3 percent of students in grades 6 through 12 in Oxford County reported using alcohol 10 or more times in their life. Forty-seven percent of students in those grades reported never using alcohol.

Refreshments will be provided at the forum.

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