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Community discusses teen drinking

17-year-old’s death could have been prevented, mother says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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An upcoming forum hopes to educate local youth and their parents about the dangers of alcohol. The Coalition for Placer Youth is hosting a teenage drinking public forum from 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday in Roseville and from 7-8:30 p.m. March 15 in Auburn. The events are free to the public, and no registration is necessary. “The aim is to educate parents and youth about the dangers of drinking alcohol,” said Kathie Sinor, who is organizing the event for the coalition. “There is a tremendous amount of binge drinking … among teens and they are getting what is called alcohol poisoning. It’s a significant cause of death in teens where they are literally overdosing on alcohol.” Redding resident Debbie Allen plans to speak at both forums. Allen’s daughter Shelby Lyn Allen died in 2008 when she was 17 years old from acute alcohol poisoning. Shelby Allen was a junior in high school. “Shelby was just beautiful,” Debbie Allen said. “She was wonderful. As one friend said, she was popular without attitude. She was involved in so many things. She was one child, you would never expect this would happen to Shelby. But it did. She was an A student, she was a track runner, she played volleyball before, cheerleaded, played the piano. It’s almost like, you name it, she did it. As a child growing up she was just your perfect child. She was my little clone, but she was so much more than I’ll ever be in this world.” Although she told her parents she was spending the night at a friend’s house, Shelby Allen attended a party the first day of Christmas break in 2008. At the end of the evening Shelby was sick and text messages went out to her friends before she passed out. Other party attendees propped her up against the toilet, but no one called 911, Debbie Allen said. “Shelby’s symptoms were reported over the text world, and there was no help called for her,” she said. “Her life could have been saved with one bit of help.” After her daughter died, Allen began Shelby’s Rules – An Alcohol Poisoning Education Foundation. She participates in events around the country, sharing her daughter’s story. Allen said binge drinking has become a popular pastime with today’s teens. “The style of drinking among our youth has changed drastically since I was a youth, my parents were a youth,” she said. “They are getting shown through our media that drinking shots of alcohol fast is sexy, like cigarettes in the 20s. That is the mentality to get drunk as fast as you can and even get sick. It’s pre-planned.” Allen said many teens don’t realize how easily this process can poison them. “For a young woman of Shelby’s 107-pound weight, as little as eight ounces of 80-proof vodka over an hour or two can lead to coma and death if no medical care is provided,” Allen said in a message on her foundation’s website. “Once alcohol poisoning has begun, the only effective treatment is to get the poisoned person to a hospital emergency room, pump their stomach and provide IV therapy.” Allen said vomiting is the first symptom of what could be alcohol poisoning. Since Shelby Allen’s death Debbie Allen has helped on the campaign of two California Assembly bills that went into effect Jan. 1. Assembly Bill 1999 provides limited immunity from prosecution to teens who call 911 when an underage friend is sick from drinking. The bill states that teens who make the calls must stay with their friends until help arrives. “The reason for this bill is to, no matter what, have young adults call for help, because we have a society now where many young adults don’t call for help for fear of getting in trouble,” Allen said. Allen also supported Assembly Bill 2486, which allows for civil suits against “social hosts” who knowingly serve alcohol to underage drinkers who are later harmed or harm others due to that alcohol. Under the law, a teen’s family still has to prove the host knew about the alcohol being consumed. Kent Morrison, a substance abuse specialist with a practice in Fair Oaks, is also speaking at the forums. Morrison said he plans to discuss the effect alcohol has on the brain and the body as well as the culture teens are experiencing. “I hope that parents get the message that parents need to be parents,” Morrison said. “That the more connected they are, even though it’s challenging, the better off their kids will be. And I hope their kids just learn it’s not an us vs. them society. I hope they understand they can partner with their parents…their adult figures, and make their choices.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ------------------------------------------------------ Coalition for Placer Youth Teenage Drinking Public Forums What: A free public forum to discuss the dangers of underage drinking When: 7-8:30 p.m. March 15 Where: Placer High School auditorium, 275 Orange Street Information: Visit coalitionforplaceryouth.org Information on Shelby's Rules Foundation: Visit shelbysrulesfoundation.com