LAWRENCEVILLE - The message from the Tioga County Partnership for Community Health is that there are fewer Tioga County youth drinking.
The most recent data available is based on a study conducted in 2009, but it contended that only 50 percent of the county's youth imbibe, representing a drop from 70 percent in previous years.
This is good news, according to partnership's Executive Director Deb Adkins, who presented the information at a combination board and town hall meeting Thursday.
Fewer than a dozen people showed for the town hall event, which focused on underage drinking and was held at the United Methodist Church.
"April is underage drinking awareness month, and the purpose of the town hall was to invite the public to talk about underage drinking," Adkins said to her small audience.
According to surveys taken of students in grades six through 12, it can no longer said the majority of the county's youth are drinking, she said.
As a result, "the message to kids is everyone doesn't drink," Adkins added.
But a bigger concern, she said, is the 48 percent of eighth graders surveyed who said they had tried alcohol, compared to 36 percent nationwide.
"Overall 25 percent of our kids have had a drink in the past 30 days," Adkins said, using the 2009 data. "Compared to the national average, Tioga County is average, but the eighth grade numbers are higher."
On the bright side, lifetime use of alcohol has declined, from 63 percent in 1992 down to 50 percent in 2009, she added.
Another disturbing figure Adkins cited was the decrease in the perception of children about the risk of harm from drinking, which went from 45 percent in 1992 to 30 percent in 2009.
"We want to see that line going up," she said.
While most feel their parents would strongly disapprove of their use of alcohol, that percentage decreased as well, from about 73 percent in 2003 to about 71 percent in 2009.
Prescription drug use trends also showed a jump in usage from 2.5 percent to 8 percent in a two year span, Adkins said.
And the resurgence of highly addictive drugs like heroin and the cheaply made meth also have law enforcement officials concerned, she said.
The reasons for the increased drug usage can be seen across the board, Adkins said.
She said in the community a sense of disorganization showed a "huge jump . . . from 2007 to 2009" from 55 percent to about 73 percent.
There also is an increase in parental attitudes t favorable to antisocial behavior, from 46 percent in 2005 to 56 percent in 2009.
The perceived availability of drugs has increased as well, she said, from 38 percent in 2001 to 51 percent in 2009.
And in the perceived risks of drug use, "about half of the kids surveyed don't see much risk," Adkins said.
The situation is much the same with protective factors. For instance, community social opportunities have been going down, and church attendance has been dropping.
"It is a lot lower here than the national average, and studies show that involvement with a community church does protect them from delinquency," she said.
On the bright side, she said, the county school systems in the survey "do really well."
"Teachers recognize students when they do well in school, which shows teachers care and have the time to show kids they care about them," Adkins said.