Coalitions in Action: Reminding People at the Point of Source: Thanks for NOT Providing Alcohol to Teens

Now that the holiday season is upon us, coalitions everywhere are especially focused on tackling alcohol misuse. The Stratford Partnership for Youth and Families (Stratford Partnership) in Stratford, Connecticut has long been concerned about underage drinking. The Partnership recently distributed unique counter mats for liquor merchants to remind customers at the cash register to comply with the law, underscoring that these stores do not sell alcohol to and / or for youth under 21.

Stratford is located on the Connecticut side of the Long Island Sound at the mouth of the Housatonic River. The Puritans arrived here in 1639. It was originally named “the Plantation at the Pequonnocke” (which means the “tidal river” in the Pequot tribal language), but was changed to Stratford to honor Stratford-upon-Avon in England. The city has a historical legacy in aviation, military and Shakespearean theater. The coalition’s service area is the town of Stratford, which has a population of about 52,000. There are over 3,000 middle and high school students, of which 52 percent are ethnic minorities.

In evaluating underage drinking prevention strategies, the coalition decided to address the issue of how it is often adults who provide alcohol to young people. This problem was of particular concern to Dr. Dudley W. Orr, Bunnell High School’s former principal and previous adult co-chair of the Stratford Partnership, who suggested creating a visible reminder at the point of sale as a deterrent tool.

Stratford is also the home of CT Distributors Inc., one of the largest wine and spirits distributors in the state of Connecticut. Its compliance manager, Bill Steindl, is a member of the coalition. When the idea for counter mats was discussed, the coalition reached out to CT Distributors, which immediately offered to design and produce them.

“As members of the partnership, we are proud to be among the town and community leaders working to reduce youth substance abuse and create a safe, healthy and drug-free environment where youth and families thrive,” said Steindl. “We were happy to sponsor the counter mats toward that end.”

Since mid-November, the Stratford Police Department has been distributing dozens of mats to more than 25 liquor merchants. “We are all partners in responsibility to keep our youth and community safe from the dangerous consequences of underage drinking,” explained Stratford Police Chief Joseph McNeil. This sentiment was echoed by Stratford’s Mayor John A. Harkins, who encouraged merchants to “help us inform the public and protect our youth.”

Stratford Partnership is pleased by the public officials’ support of its effort, and are hopeful that it will have a positive effect on preventing illegal sales of alcohol to minors. "While it is still too soon to measure the impact of the mats, it is another opportunity to send the message — a reminder — that buying alcohol for young people is against the law and presents a dangerous situation," said Tammy Trojanowski, program director for the Stratford Partnership and Administrator for Town of Stratford Community Services. "Liquor merchants do their best to comply with the law, and the police department and liquor control in enforcing it, but we are always concerned.”