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DA’s Office Adopts New Evidence-Based Program To Address Underage Drinking

Through a partnership with local community-based coalition Watauga Substance Abuse Prevention and youth serving nonprofit Western Youth Network (WYN), the District’s Attorney’s office has adopted a new education component as a part of their underage drinking deferral program.

Prime For Life is an evidence-based program specifically designed for people who may be making high-risk choices, including college students and young people who have been charged with alcohol offenses. It is designed to change drinking and drug use behaviors by challenging beliefs, attitudes, risk perceptions, and motivations about alcohol related problems throughout their lives.

“Because incidents of underage drinking can be a strong indicator of substance abuse issues later in life, it is important that we, as a community, are able to offer an evidence-based response when young people are charged with offenses that involve alcohol,” District Attorney Seth Banks said in a statement.  “By partnering with the professionals at Watauga Substance Abuse Prevention and the Western Youth Network we have been able to offer our young people a second chance through evidence-based education.”

Upon receiving an underage alcohol citation, court-referred individuals must complete the 4.5 hour program. The course material is presented using a DVD platform with animation, full-motion video clips, and audio clips to enhance the learning experience and taught by trained Prime for Life facilitator and licensed clinical counselor Dale Kirkley.

“Beliefs and behaviors about alcohol and drug use are subject to one’s environment and life experience,” Dale Kirkley said. “With new understanding and support, most people are willing to make changes to their high-risk behaviors.  The program does not rely on scare tactics,” he said, “but, rather, deep self-evaluation.”

When presented in a non-judgmental way, carefully selected information can provoke new thinking and provide individuals with a solid basis for making decisions about their own drinking and drug use. Prime For Life has also been shown to reduce recidivism.