Madison (WKOW) -- from Dane Co.: Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk announced Monday that a pilot project aiming to reduce the number of young people that start drinking alcohol as early as their middle school years will start in 2009 in River Bluff Middle School in Stoughton and Sennett Middle School in Madison.
Creation of the new county program to work in middle schools was one of the recommendations from an initiative Falk launched this year to confront the harms of alcohol abuse in Dane County.
"One of the most eye-opening findings of our extensive research was the prevalence of alcohol in our middle schools," Falk said.
"There is truth to age-old adage of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure. If we can keep kids as young as 6th, 7th, and 8th grade from getting caught in the traps of excessive alcohol use, we can help reduce the risk of them running into greater problems later in life," Falk said.
A 2005 Youth Assessment found that one in three Dane County middle school students admitted to using alcohol.
Ten percent of them said they had binge drank and had five or more drinks in one sitting in the past month.
A group called Project Hugs will lead the middle school pilot project.
The group is staffed by parents who have faced alcohol issues within their own families.
Staff at River Bluff and Sennett will identify at-risk students in the schools and Project Hugs will then work with the parents of those youth to explore strategies on preventing initial or additional alcohol use.
The pilot project aims to work with 40 families in its first year, including providing alcohol treatment slots for parents or youth who need them.
Falk included $60,000 in the 2009 county budget to launch the new effort and CUNA Mutual Foundation gave a $15,000 grant to Project Hugs to assist with its work.
The schools were selected by a committee representing business, county board, and local government officials along with representatives of Project Hugs.
It evaluated the individual needs and demographics of the schools and reviewed existing school services and resources for students with alcohol and/or drug dependency issues.