The mood on the Riverhead Town Board dais went from whimsical to serious last night as members of the Riverhead Youth Coalition presented the board with statistics that were inescapably sobering.

Youth Coalition members set up the presentation like a quiz show, asking the supervisor and council members to answer multiple choice questions about teens’ alcohol use.

At first, some board members made lighthearted wisecracks about drinking — highlighting what substance abuse prevention advocates say is an underlying problem with adult views about youth alcohol use: adults don’t always take it seriously enough. Adults don’t always see alcohol for what it is, when it comes to kids: a gateway drug with very serious consequences.

As the quiz progressed, and board members were asked to answer pointed questions about underage alcohol use that presented hard data from surveys of Riverhead High School students, their mood changed.

They learned:

In 2016, six out of every 10 Riverhead High School 12th graders reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days.

On average, most Riverhead High School 12th graders report having their first alcoholic beverage at age 13.

In 2016, one out of every four Riverhead High School 12th graders reported binge drinking in the past two weeks.

Approximately 27 percent of Riverhead High School 12th graders report they have been in a vehicle with a driver who had been drinking.

Alcohol use can can serious problems for youth, the Riverhead Youth Coalition members told the board and the public at last night’s town board meeting. These problems include poor academic performance, sexual assaults, car accidents, addiction and death from alcohol poisoning.

The Riverhead Youth Coalition has been active in the community to get these messages out to the public, including other youth. They have created radio public service announcements about the Social Host Law, organized pre-prom events and meetings and developed “Project Sticker Shock,” which labels alcoholic beverages in stores with warnings about providing alcohol to underage persons.

The coalition is a project of Riverhead CAP.

Supervisor Sean Walter made a statement at the end of the youths’ presentation warning adults who host parties for teens where alcohol is served.

The Riverhead Town Police enforce the Social Host Law, he said. The law makes it a criminal offense to serve alcohol to underage persons in your home.

“We monitor Facebook,” Walter said. “If you are hosting such a party the police will find out about it and will be at your door.”

The town board presented the coalition members with certificates of appreciation for their work.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.