Wednesday, Nov. 24

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Multi-agency effort targets alcohol abuse; new task force to concentrate state efforts

Illinois college students challenged to join effort          Send a link to a friend

[NOV. 24, 2004]  CHICAGO -- On Tuesday three state agencies active in preventing alcohol abuse launched the Governor's Alcohol Abuse Task Force, aimed at educating citizens about the prevention and treatment resources available throughout the state to help combat alcohol abuse. This first-time effort will be led by the secretaries of the departments of Human Services and Transportation and the director of the Illinois State Police. The announcement comes two days prior to Thanksgiving, the traditional kickoff of the holiday season and holiday parties.

"I hope we can stand here next year and say to you that there were no alcohol-related crash fatalities over the 2004 Thanksgiving holiday weekend," Department of Transportation Secretary Timothy W. Martin said. "The sad reality is, some people just don't get it. They continue to drive drunk, and people die as a result. I am excited about this new opportunity the governor has presented us with, and I think, working together as one, we will make a difference."

In a statement supporting the multi-agency effort, Gov. Blagojevich said: "State government has a number of programs working independently to combat alcohol abuse issues. The Governor's Alcohol Abuse Task Force will bring these agencies together, with industry and interest groups, to better coordinate our efforts. By bringing all of our programs under the guidance of the task force, we're taking a team approach, attacking the problems together, rather than separately as individual agencies."

The Governor's Alcohol Abuse Task Force kicked off its efforts Tuesday with a simulated car crash at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago. The demonstration included a wrecked car placed on the plaza and seven actors from the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council portraying fatalities from an alcohol-related crash. Last year over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, seven people were killed on Illinois roads in six fatal crashes.

Martin, Department of Human Services Secretary Carol Adams and Illinois State Police Director Larry Trent form the nucleus of the task force and will begin assembling other members immediately.

"We want to reach out to advocacy groups and industry and ask them to partner with us in reducing the high social and economic costs of alcohol abuse," Adams said. "Abusing alcohol tears families apart, it shatters lives, and yet it is entirely preventable. We all have a stake in fighting alcohol abuse, whether it's in our homes, communities or across the state."

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When people think of alcohol abuse, they tend to think of alcoholism and drinking and driving, but abuse takes many more forms:

  • Studies indicate that up to 40 percent of all residential fire victims are impaired by alcohol.
  • According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism 1,400 college students ages 18-24 die each year from alcohol-related injuries.
  • According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 40 percent of all crimes are committed under the influence of alcohol.
  • Alcohol is a factor in as many as 40 percent of all domestic violence incidents in Illinois.
  • Youth who drink before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21.
  • About three in 10 of all Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some time in their lives.

On Tuesday members of the Governor's Alcohol Abuse Task Force also challenged students at colleges and universities throughout Illinois to join in the effort to combat alcohol abuse. College and university students will be asked to produce a 30-second public service announcement dealing with impaired driving. Entries are to be submitted by May 1, 2005, and the task force will judge the entries, with the winning submission used next year in a broadcast campaign. The winning entry will be recognized by having their school logo placed in the public service announcement during its broadcast.

"The choices we make in life may have far-reaching consequences for our future, our families and friends, as well as the innocent bystanders who are often placed in dangerous and sometimes fatal situations," said Trent. "The goal of this partnership is to educate the public of the dangers involved with alcohol abuse and the effects it can have on others."

Over the next several weeks Martin, Trent and Adams will identify the other members of the Governor's Alcohol Abuse Task Force, inviting representatives from interest groups, industry and other state agencies to join.

[News release from the governor's office]

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