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Utah's Summit County works to bring down high rate of teen binge drinking

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Summit County works to bring down high rate of teen binge drinking (Photo: KUTV)

A report shows that high school seniors in Summit County are almost three times more likely to binge drink alcohol than other high school seniors across the state.

The Student Health and Risk Prevention report considers binge drinking to be consuming five or more drinks in one sitting.

Across Utah, 6.9% of high school seniors say they have binged alcohol — but in Summit County, it is a reported 20.5% of seniors.

The Summit County Health Department said there are multiple reasons they have higher numbers of teen drinkers.

"We have a little bit less of LDS people living here. We have a lot people with lots of money. Kids that don't need to work like in other places, and they have a lot more free time,” Pamella Bello, the Summit County Director of Behavioral Health Prevention said.

Bello said in Summit County many kids are drinking alcohol with their parents’ permission.

"Parents think that, 'Oh, maybe if kids are going to drink anyways, maybe if they drink at home at least they won't be drinking and driving.' And that is true, but we need to think about the kids' brain development."

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Schools in the county are teaching life skills classes to students to educate about the dangers of teen drinking. But Bello said its parents who can get the message through.

"They ask kids who is the person that influences you the most, and kids answer, 'my parents.'"

When they ask parents who they think influences their kids more, parents typically think the answer is friends, teachers — everybody but the parents, Bello said.

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Summit County holds parenting classes at the county library every Monday in English and Tuesday in Spanish.

"There is free transportation. The classes are free. There is free dinner, there is free childcare," Bello said.

The classes teach parents to involve kids in creating clear rules and punishments for their family.

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