PHOTO: On Feb. 25, members of the Jones County Safe & Healthy Youth Coalition, along with Sheriff Greg Graver and family, attend Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Day on the Hill in Des Moines. Graver was the featured speaker of the day, talking about the Social Host law. The group also toured the Capitol and visited with Rep. Lee Hein. (Photo submitted)
By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
The Jones County Safe & Healthy Youth Coalition (JCSHYC), along with Jones County Sheriff Greg Graver, attended the annual Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Day on the Hill in Des Moines at the state capitol on Feb. 25. The main speaker for the day was Sheriff Graver, who spoke on the Social Host law, of which many counties in Iowa have already passed, including Jones County.
Over 75 youth, adults and legislators from across Iowa attended the event.
Graver was asked to speak at Day on the Hill, which started in the early 2000s, by Jennifer Husmann, Coalition project coordinator. Husmann is a member of the legislative committee for the Alliance of Coalitions 4 Change (AC4C).
“I thought Greg would be great!” credited Husmann. “He knows the impact of Social Host.” Jones County Board of Supervisors approved the county ordinance two years ago.
In his speech, Graver said, “Through my years of service in Jones County, alcohol enforcement and dealing with the youth in my county, has been a priority and passion of mine. I grew up in a non-alcoholic family, and I am proud to stand in front of you today and tell you I am raising my three kids in a non-alcoholic family.”
Graver said, unfortunately, this is not always the case. He said, “… this is not the trend and unfortunately not the situation facing most youth in my county.”
In his relationship with the JCSHYC, Graver said they have “set the ground work in making a true impact with the youth of our county.”
In collecting data and surveying Jones County youth, the Coalition has proven time and time again that underage alcohol consumption is a problem and a major issue.
“From being a patrol deputy, investigator, chief deputy and now sheriff,” Graver said, “I have seen how alcohol has affected and made a negative impact in the lives of our youth.”
In urging the state to consider additional laws in the case of underage drinking, Graver commented that “enforcing the current alcohol laws of this state has done little to slow or make an effect on the amount of alcohol consumed by our youth.” He said some adults create environments for youth to gather and consume alcohol, leading to such incidents as overdoses, car accidents, sexual assaults and deaths.
“Making those providing a place, environment or hosting alcohol parties for our youth is a major problem with little to no repercussions,” Graver said. This led to Jones County passing the Social Host Ordinance.
Graver cited instances in which Social Host has led to the successful prosecution of individuals or parties involved.
“I believe the impact we are beginning to see in our county can spread throughout the state,” Graver said to the legislators present.
The Coalition and Graver’s presence at Day on the Hill were to not only learn about other youth substance abuse issues across the state, but to urge the state legislators to pass Social Host. Rep. Lee Hein has already introduced a Social Host bill (HF 234), with a companion bill introduced by Sen. Tod Bowman.
Social Host violations in Jones County includes a $500 fine to any adult who provides a place for underage drinking. About 35 counties and cities in Iowa have passed Social Host ordinances. Delaware County is currently looking into similar legislation.
Husmann said the Coalition attends events like Day on the Hill to “educate the public and legislators on effective policies that can change or reduce access to alcohol and other drugs by a minor.
“It’s not about lobbying,” said Husmann. “It’s to help give youth and adults an opportunity to voice their concerns.”
Should the state pass its own version of Social Host, Graver said it wouldn’t do much to benefit Jones County, with the same ordinance already in place. But, he said it would help surrounding counties without the law. Graver said area youth are going into surrounding counties, knowing there is no law in place.
“It’ll give counties without Social Host a reason to charge,” he said. “It makes people liable for throwing underage drinking parties.”
With the Public Safety Subcommittee discussing the Social Host bill in Des Moines, Graver is confident it has a better chance of successfully passing.
“If more counties jump on board, the more likely the state might adopt the bill,” Graver noted.