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Sticking to the law: Public health program battles underage drinking

By Jorge Gomez | IACH PUBLIC AFFAIRS | July 13, 2015

Although it’s illegal to purchase or provide alcohol to a minor, underage drinking remains a national public health problem. Communities like Manhattan and Fort Riley are no exception.

Col. Paul Benne, Irwin Army Community Hospital’s Department of Public Health Chief, teamed up with Melissa Rickel-Morrill of the Manhattan Area Risk Prevention Coalition to raise awareness of this public health issue on Fort Riley June 27.

The information campaign targets customers with a stop-sign-shaped sticker affixed to beer bottles, cartons and cases. Even the popular solo party cups are stuck with bright reminders of the law.

An estimated 3,000 stickers were affixed to alcoholic beverages at a Fort Riley Exchange Shoppette. Members of the IACH Department of Public Health, their family members, and Fort Riley military police volunteered an hour on a Saturday morning.

Last year the coalition affixed 6,800 stickers among eight locally owned liquor stores in Manhattan. None of the major retailers participated. This is the first year that Fort Riley participated in the campaign.

“The fact that Fort Riley got involved this year is huge,” said Rickel-Morrill. “This lends credibility to the effort as we rely on the state for a grant.”

Getting Rickel-Morrill through Fort Riley’s gates at a time of heightened security was no easy task, but Col. Benne said they were committed to making this happen.

The timing of this Fort Riley activation was designed to raise awareness during the Country Stampede weekend and before the Fourth of July rush to ramp up on alcoholic beverages.

The Manhattan campaign won’t begin until August but Rickel-Morrill said she hopes Fort Riley’s participation will encourage all 12 locally owned liquor businesses to cooperate.

“Those who don’t cooperate may resist out of a fear of losing business,” Rickel-Morrill said, “but it also raises a red flag to the police department to keep a closer eye on those who don’t wish to follow the law.”

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