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South Bay groups unite to combat underage drinking

GARDENA — A coalition of private organizations fighting against alcohol abuse kicked off Alcohol Awareness Month April 2 with a ceremony at City Hall here, supported by a number of city, county and state officials.

“Alcohol is the number one drug of choice for young people,” said Raunda Frank, outreach director for South Bay Communities Creating Change, known as SBC3, in welcoming the audience.

“Alcohol is the second leading cause of premature death in Los Angeles County. Our goal is to work with communities to halt under age drinking. We are a coalition of people dedicated to halt alcohol abuse,” Frank said.

Keynote speakers were Wesley L. Ford, executive director of substance abuse prevention and control for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health; and Assemblyman Mike A. Gipson, a former Carson City Council member elected last November to represent the 64th Assembly District, which includes Carson, Compton, Gardena and South Los Angeles.

“I am a strong partner with you,” said Gibson, a former Maywood police officer. “We have been a strong advocate to build a bridge to the community. I will be an advocate for you in Sacramento to make sure alcohol does not get into the hands of young people,” Gipson said, recalling his experience as a police officer and the times “we had to pull people out of wrecked vehicles.”

“It’s easier to bring about change when we work in a coalition,” Ford said. “Alcohol can rip families apart. Young people like Ashley here are our future and will bring about change.”

He was referring to a third speaker, Ashley Moran, an 18-year-old Gardena High School senior, who told about her personal experience with drinking in her family, including an alcoholic father and a brother who abused drugs and alcohol.

“No one was there for them,” she said. “I promised myself I would not become a victim, that I would never drink and would use my story to help others.”

Moran said she joined a high school task force to work with her peers against drug and alcohol abuse.

“I use my experience to help other youth overcome the same situation,” she said.

Proclamations declaring April as Alcohol Awareness Month were presented to coalition members by Carson Mayor Pro Tem Elito Santarina, Gardena Mayor Pro Tem Tasha Creda and Inglewood City Councilman Alex Padilla, Hermosa Beach Mayor Pete Tucker, Lawndale Mayor Robert Pullen-Miles, Long Beach City Councilman Dee Andrews, Redondo Beach Mayor Steve Aspel and Torrance Mayor Pat Furey.

Other proclamations came from representatives of county Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas, state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach; U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro; U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles; and Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Manhattan Beach.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Commerce, joined the campaign to fight alcohol abuse by introducing House Resolution 1717 in Congress, a bill that would reauthorize the Sober Truth on Preventing (STOP) Underage Drinking Act.

Roybal-Allard’s original STOP Act became law in 2006, after passing Congress with bipartisan support.

“The programs in the original STOP Act have been successful in helping to reduce America’s underage drinking rate, but we still have more work to do,” Roybal-Allard said. “Alcohol remains the most popular drug among our nation’s young people.”

H.R. 1717 continues and enhances the policies contained in the original legislation, while also adding new prevention, screening and intervention provisions, a Roybal-Allard spokesperson said.