By Pat D. Conway and Kathy Bessette
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your challenge regarding minor in possession and underage drinking in our community. We would like to share some of the services and programs available through Hill County.
Hill County, with the encouragement of HELP (Havre Encourages Long-Range Prevention) and the assistance of the Montana Legislature (specifically Rep. John Musgrove,) passed a countrywide curfew ordinance. By passing this countrywide curfew, commissioners have taken measures to curtail teenage drinking. This ordinance will assist law enforcement by enabling officers to stop a minor who is evading the city of Havre curfew by moving out of the city and into the county. This has the potential of breaking up a keggar, thus possibly preventing accidents and saving lives.
Hill County utilizes the services of TLC Recovery Inc., an eight-county drug and alcohol treatment program. Commissioner Bessette serves on the board of TLC, which is governed by a commissioner from each county involved. TLC provides treatment, education and prevention programs to those individuals requesting assistance, as well as those who are court ordered. TLC sponsors the Insight Program, which is for MIP tickets. Also available is the Alert Program, which educates students on the dangers of drugs. Family counseling, which can provide education and direction for the entire family when there is concern about drinking, is also available through TLC.
Hill County works with the local HELP committee and many of the programs available through that entity. Cindy Smith, director of nursing at the Hill County Health Department, serves as chairperson of the board of HELP and of the Boys and Girls Club of the Hi-Line and Commissioner Kaercher also serves on the board of directors. Smith is involved with the Safe Kids, Safe Community Program as well as the Yellow Ribbon Program, which deals with suicide prevention. She is chairperson of the Hill County Family Support Coalition which includes various agencies in Hill County. She also sponsors Teen Week through the Health Department, which is educational and stresses being a responsible teen. The Hill County Health Department conducts a skill building presentation at TLC Recovery Inc.
The Hill County Health Department collaborates with HRDC for various educational programs, including parenting classes. Included are Family partnership and Early Head Start.
The Hill County sheriff has presented the DARE Program in the past and is planning to do so in the future. Commissioners have always participated in and supported this endeavor to educate our students.
As you can see, programs provided by governmental entities to assist in the war against drug and alcohol abuse are available. They range from education and prevention, to treatment for addiction. However, we feel the most important "program" is the direction and guidance a child receives in their home. Parenting is a tremendous responsibility but there are many resources available in our community.
Patrick D. Conway is chairman of the Hill County Commission and Kathy Bessette is a commissioner.