Jones Co. youth address legislators on substance abuse

MHS students Hayo Eiden and Caroline Olson met with Rep. Andy McKean while at the Capitol. The theme for this year’s AC4C Day on the Hill was “Impairment of Young Minds.” The Coalition is working to see the beer excise tax increased. (Photo submitted)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Jones County high school youth got the opportunity to see the Iowa Capitol and hear about the legislative process firsthand.

     On Feb. 21, 37 high school students and adults accompanied the Jones County Safe and Healthy Youth Coalition to Des Moines for the annual AC4C (Alliance of Coalitions for Change) Youth Day on the Hill. Of that total, Monticello High School had the biggest showing with 23 people.

     This year’s theme was “Impairment of Young Minds,” dealing with alcohol and substances that impair the minds of youth and the impact that leaves, short-term and long-term.

     The Coalition started taking youth to Day on the Hill back in 2006.

     “The first trip went so great and it was a great experience for our kids,” said Jennifer Husmann, Coalition project coordinator, they continued to go year after year.

     Husmann said after local laws have been put into place with the Coalition’s backing, such as Social Host and Keg Registration, Day on the Hill allows coalitions across to the state to share their strengths with others in the hopes of making a statewide difference.

     One of the Coalition’s biggest focuses this year is seeing the State of Iowa increase the beer excise tax from less than 2 cents a drink to 7 cents, an additional nickel.

     Husmann said Rep. Andy McKean from Anamosa has co-sponsored a bill (HF 2268) that has not been defeated yet, that would do just that.

     “It continues to be addressed,” Husmann said with hope.

     She said the increased money would go toward substance abuse/alcohol prevention efforts and to cover the never-ending treatment costs that taxpayers foot the bill for.

     Husmann shared that Rep. Lee Hein from Monticello commented that proposing an increase in the beer tax, in any tax for that matter, would be an up-hill battle right now in Des Moines.

     “We’re not afraid to take on the tough issues,” she said of the Coalition’s efforts. “It’ll create a ripple effect to solve this problem.”

     She admitted issues that ask for an increase in taxes are hard to get public support behind, but have lasting impressions and lasting affects.

     The Social Host Law in Iowa, for example, took seven years to go into effect; five years for Keg Registration

     “The beer tax is not just a user fee,” said Husmann. “It’ affects all socio-economic groups equally.”

     She said the misconception out there is that the poor and uneducated population is the biggest drinkers. However, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health, “Males aged 25-34 with a college degree and income of $50,000 or more are the most likely to binge drink.”

     Husmann said the vast majority of Iowans today are in favor of increasing the beer excise tax, “as long as the money goes to treatment and prevention versus the general budget.

     “It’s about saving lives and saving taxpayers’ money,” she said.

     In order to get their message across to their state legislators, Husmann said the youth spoke one-on-one with their representatives.

     “It was a good experience to get their voices heard,” she said. “It’s important they get involved in civics. There are some changes we cannot handle locally, that need to be done on the state level.”

     The group also toured the Capitol.

     The Coalition started local high school student advocacy groups about five years ago. MHS teacher Todd Hospodarsky oversees Monticello group, SODA (Students Opposed to Drugs and Alcohol). The countywide student advocacy group is known as BEASTS (Being Excellent And Staying Totally Safe).

     Husmann said those groups are really pushing initiatives on their own.

     One such student advocate from Delaware County, a Maquoketa Valley student, addressed a group at Day on the Hill about why substance abuse/impairment laws are so important, especially for youth.

     “It’s important for our legislators to know what these youth are experiencing in their school and with their families,” Husmann said.

     There were many speakers from across Iowa who presented during Day on the Hill. One such speaker, Dr. Richard Newkirk, spoke about how alcohol and marijuana affected the young mind. Husmann said to relate to the student, Newkirk described the affects chocolate and caffeine have on the brain.

     “The youth loved his training,” she said.

     The bus transportation to Des Moines for Day on the Hill was funded through a grant.

     For more about the Coalition, visit


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