NEW BEDFORD — The weather is getting warmer and school is almost over. For many students this time of year can be very exciting, especially for high school seniors as they prepare for prom and graduation.

As these celebrations take place the presence of alcohol and underage drinking, as well as the use of other substances by minors, is still prevalent.

Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn joined Mayor Jon Mitchell, Police Chief Joe Cordeiro and other leaders of local law enforcement at City Hall on Wednesday morning to educate students and parents about the dangers of underage drinking and substance use.

“This is prom and graduation season, it's a milestone for many people who are moving on to different phases of their lives,” said D.A. Quinn. “Unfortunately we often hear of tragedies from drinking that effect people and their families for the rest of their lives.”

Quinn's Underage Substance Use Prevention Task Force along with police officials from Swansea, Seekonk, and Dartmouth, and the Alcohol Beverage and Control Commission also attended the event.

“The incidents of drunken driving in this time of year I think we're all familiar with, some were some too familiar with,” said Mayor Mitchell before detailing a list of troubling statistics, provided by MADD, of underage drinking.

“4,300 people are killed each year due to teen alcohol use. Youth who start drinking early are six times more likely to develop substance abuse or dependence later in life,” continued Mitchell. “There are over 10,000 deaths per year, some 29 a day, almost one every 50 minutes due to drunken driving, so it's still a national problem.”

Quinn discussed a number of activities sponsored by the high school and his office that he says will provide “healthy activities to persuade people from going out and engaging in activity that could cause a tragedy.” He says that these post-prom parties are held in known buildings like the high school gymnasium and are supervised by parents and school staff to help make a safer night of celebration for students.

The District Attorney also puts the burden on parents, arguing that parents should be actively involved in ensuring that their child is aware of the risks of underage drinking and substance use, and should also be setting limits on what their children are doing in social settings.

“I think parents have to encourage their children to be safe and make healthy decisions, and set limits on what their children should be doing. Parents have to be involved and the schools have gone to great lengths to host these activities which are positive and are supervised by adults,” Quinn said. “The opiate issue is still a huge issue but alcohol is still the number one drug of choice among teens."

The event was capped off by an appearance by members of the Katie Brown Educational Project, an organization committed to reducing teen dating violence and domestic abuse.

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