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A relatively new ordinance targeting underage drinking parties took effect March 1 in Mesilla. Grown out of efforts by a county-wide network to reduce alcohol problems in Doña Ana County, the policy seeks to curb underage drinking in home settings.
Alcohol is the most widely used drug among young people. In 2018, almost 21 percent of Doña Ana County 9th graders reported drinking alcohol before age 13, according to the New Mexico Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey, and about 11 percent reported binge drinking, defined as having 4 to 5 or more drinks in a row during a two-hour period.
In Doña Ana County, 36 percent of students report someone giving them alcohol, and the majority of youth drank it in their home or in another person’s home.
“Mesilla joins other concerned communities in the county to provide law enforcement with an additional tool to hold adults responsible for allowing underage drinking in the home,” said Dr. Ned Rubin, chair of the Unified Prevention (UP!) Coalition of Doña Ana County.
Mesilla Mayor Nora Barraza discussed the importance of working in conjunction with its neighboring communities to keep citizens safe. “By passing laws that hold those who provide alcohol to underage individuals responsible, we join Anthony, Hatch and Sunland Park in working to challenge social norms and create an environment where underage drinking is not accepted.”
Mesilla’s Social Host Ordinance enables law enforcement to impose a civil fine – like a traffic ticket – on the spot if called to break up underage drinking parties. The first time, the fine to the homeowner is $250, and subsequent fines in the same 12-month period go higher, and jail time can be imposed.
Ordinance like the one in Mesilla send a unified message that underage drinking parties are unsafe and unacceptable.
Dr. Rubin, alongside UP! Coalition members, congratulated the town of Mesilla on taking a clear stand in support of the vision that every community member can live a life free of alcohol, tobacco, other drugs and adverse behaviors.
Evidence has shown that community-based strategies can help reduce underage drinking and associated harms. It is our hope that proven alcohol policies will improve our local efforts to reduce the burden youth and communities experience because of underage drinking.
Alyssa Myrick is a Program Specialist with The Center for Health Innovation, New Mexico’s Public Health Institute. She is the lead coordinator for the local youth substance use/misuse prevention group, the Unified Prevention (UP!) Coalition.