Nebraska’s Project Extra Mile Program Leads to Reduced Alcohol Sales to Youth in Omaha
Alcohol is the most widely misused substance among America’s youth. Consumption of alcohol by anyone under the age of 21, also known as underage drinking, remains a considerable public health challenge.1 In 2014, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 8.7 million people aged 12–20 years (22.8% of this age group) reported drinking alcohol in the past month, and approximately 5.3 million people (about 13.8%) aged 12–20 years were binge drinkers.2 In Nebraska, from 2013 to 2014, approximately 51,000 individuals aged 12–20 years reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days, and approximately 35,000 individuals reported binge drinking in the past 30 days.3
Project Extra Mile is a statewide network of community partnerships in Nebraska that has been working since 1995 to prevent and reduce alcohol-related harms.4 Community organizing is the foundation of their efforts to address underage drinking, excessive alcohol consumption, and the related harms within the community through a comprehensive, environment-based approach.5 The organization provides technical assistance for underage drinking prevention initiatives6 conducted by community partners. Additionally, the organization uses available research and data to make evidence-based recommendations on how to prevent underage alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harms.7
Project Extra Mile’s 5-pronged approach includes policy initiatives, enforcement collaborations, education and awareness, media advocacy, and youth leadership.4 Alcohol compliance checks are one of Project Extra Mile’s key policy and enforcement initiatives. Since 1997, Project Extra Mile has coordinated with several state and local law enforcement agencies across Nebraska to conduct 6 multi-agency alcohol compliance checks in Nebraska businesses. The compliance checks address the enforcement of the Nebraska Liquor Control Act with regard to sales to minors from licensed establishments.8 Project Extra Mile provides technical assistance for conducting compliance checks, education about the laws for involvement of youth in compliance checks, assistance with identifying and reviewing mini-grant applications to support compliance checks, training opportunities related to enforcement of the Nebraska Liquor Control Act, and encouragement to seek community support for these initiatives. Further, Project Extra Mile uses media advocacy as a tool to educate adults about the penalties for providing or supplying alcohol to minors, identify businesses selling alcohol to minors, and applaud businesses that have passed the compliance check.
As a result of the efforts of Project Extra Mile, 10,000 compliance checks have been conducted since 1997. During this time, the Omaha metropolitan area has seen a dramatic decrease in the percentage of noncompliant local businesses found during compliance checks. In 1997, 41% of Omaha businesses were noncompliant, compared to 8% in 2015. Additionally, selective enforcement patrols have seen a 39% decline in youth alcohol violations from 2006 to 2014.9
Engagement with local law enforcement agencies through the community partnership has been an integral component of the program’s success and demonstrates support for the enforcement of the Nebraska Liquor Control Act. Additionally, using proven, evidence-based strategies to enforce alcohol laws has helped Project Extra Mile gain support and have an impact on underage drinking in communities across Nebraska.
Multi-agency, enhanced underage drinking enforcements
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