Fifty-six out of 64 Lorain County alcohol retailers passed the most recent secret-shopper style compliance check conducted by a coalition of health and law enforcement officials to combat underage drinking, according to a news release from the Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery Services (MHARS) Board of Lorain County.
Multiple convenience stores, gasoline stations, drug stores, grocers and taverns in Amherst, Elyria, Lorain, North Ridgeville and Wellington were in compliance with laws on the sale of alcohol by properly checking the age of the potential buyer and asking for identification, the release said.
“Preventing underage substance misuse is a major local health priority,” said Elaine Georgas, interim director of the Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery Services Board. “Early alcohol or drug use can prime a young person’s brain to be more likely to experience addiction later in life.”
Area police departments, the Ohio Investigative Unit and the MHARS Board with the Sober Truth On Preventing Underage Drinking Task Force (STOP Task Force) partner to conduct these compliance checks on a regular basis to help combat underage drinking, the release said.
In Lorain County, more teens in sixth through 12th grades report using alcohol than any other substance, according to 2017 STOP surveys, the release said.
Also, over one-third of young adults ages 18 to 20 reported frequent use of alcohol.
“With local law enforcement, we conduct random compliance checks across Lorain County, to help ensure that our community is supporting a drug-free culture for our kids,” said Deborah Kelley, who coordinates Communities That Care, Lorain County’s Drug Free Community Coalition.
If a retailer does not pass the compliance check, the arm of law enforcement that is onsite immediately issues a citation to the clerk who made the sale.
Alternately, local police departments can send the complaint to the Ohio Investigative Unit for review to issue a citation after the fact, according to the release.
To help vendors become or stay compliant, the Underage Drinking Task Force and MHARS provide merchant education and training on responsible alcohol sales and are working to develop and disseminate tool kits and resource packets to alcohol retail outlets, the release said.
Certificates of appreciation are being presented to compliant businesses by members of the Underage Drinking Task Force this week.
The mission of the MHARS Board is to improve the well-being of the community by establishing and maintaining an effective, efficient and quality system of addiction and mental health services in Lorain County, the release said.
Residents will have access to the most progressive mental health and substance use disorder treatment, prevention and recovery support services available.
For more information, visit mharsloraincounty.org.