Pilot video program in Miss., other states targets youth drinking

Published 5:55 pm Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Several Mississippi agencies are partnering with Maryland’s Social and Health Services and others to create and distribute videos designed to halt teenage underage drinking.

Videos focusing on methods proven to keep youth from drinking are being filmed as a pilot program in Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas, starting at Colmer Middle School in Pascagoula.

A documentary crew from Maryland filmed classroom programs in action Tuesday. Angshuman Mojumder, producer with Social and Health Services of Rockville, Md., and David Strong, director of photography, will film at two other Mississippi schools in Madison and Hinds counties.

The 10-minute video is a cooperative effort among the Mississippi Departments of Mental Health, Education and Public Safety and Dream Inc. Similar videos may be filmed in every state so professionals can share information and legislatures can see the importance of funding educational programs, officials said.

Capt. Windy Swetman III of the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department was among those interviewed for the documentary.

“Our goal is to save lives, plain and simple,” he said.

The program for students is to “let them know there are consequences,” he said.

Underage drinkers who are caught have their licenses taken away for up to 90 days and are given community service. Or they can pay a $250 fine, but Swetman said, “Typically, we see those kids again.”

James Yancey, executive director of the Jackson County Community Coalition, said thousands have benefited from the programs they teach in local schools and colleges.