Stepping up Efforts to Prevent Underage Youth from Drinking in Tijuana

DATE: May 18, 1999 
TO: Board of Supervisors 
SUBJECT:Stepping up Efforts to Prevent Underage Youth from Drinking in Tijuana 

On August 12, 1997 (42), at the recommendation of Supervisor Cox, the Board approved a series of actions to address public health and safety problems related to San Diego youth drinking alcohol in Mexico.

Subsequently, on February 17, 1998 (6), the Board approved, in concept, policy statements drafted by the Border Project to Reduce U.S. Teen and Binge Drinking in Mexico work group.

On August 11, 1998 (9), as a follow-up to these policy statements, the Board approved strategies to assist in the reduction and prevention of public health and public safety problems related to San Diego youth drinking alcohol in Mexico.

Approval of these recommendations would step up efforts to prevent underage youth from drinking in Mexico, request assistance from several local governmental entities and allocate the necessary resources to accomplish the goals outlined by the Border Project working groups.

Supervisor Cox and Vice Chairwoman Jacob 
1. Direct the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) to convene current and former working groups and request participation from the City of San Diego, local school districts and the military to reduce the impacts associated with youth drinking in Mexico.

2. Direct the CAO to convene a summit in September chaired by Supervisors Cox and Jacob, with appropriate representation from federal, state, city and county governments, schools and military as well as representatives from law enforcement, local businesses, and officials and businesses from Mexico to participate in the second summit to address this serious issue.

3. Consider during budget deliberations for fiscal year 1999-2000 approval of appropriations of $202,721 in the Health and Human Services Agency, Community-Based Prevention program, including $2,271 in Management Reserve, based revenues of $180,000 from the General Fund, and $22,721 from the California Highway Patrol Grant Program.

4. With establishment of appropriations, direct the CAO to execute, subject to successful negotiations and determination of fair and reasonable price, a new contract to continue the work of the Institute for Health Advocacy, Inc. for a one-year period effective July 1, 1999 through June 30, 2000, with two (2) additional option years through June 30, 2002.

5. Direct the CAO to seek additional sources of funding for the Border Project and return to the Board in 180 days with possible additional funds identified and a status report on strategies identified in the second Border Project Summit.

Fiscal Impact: 
Funds for this request are identified in the 1999-2000 proposed budget. There will be no additional net General Fund cost, and no additional staff years this fiscal year.

On any given weekend night in San Diego, 10,000 young Americans cross the border to drink in Mexico where the drinking age is only 18. Statistics show that 40 percent of border crossers returning from Tijuana are under 21 and legally drunk. Three hundred drivers are over the .08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level and another 100 underage drinkers who are over the .02 BAC level return from Mexico each weekend night.

Faced with these frightening statistics, on August 12, 1997 (42), the Board approved recommendations from Supervisor Cox aimed at addressing the public health and safety problems resulting from San Diego County youth drinking in Mexico. The Board directed the CAO to seek resources from the National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse and other funding sources to support research and program implementation activities to address San Diego County youth drinking in Mexico. Subsequently, on February 17, 1998 (6), the Board received an initial report on this project. The report described the activities, data collection and research conducted by the project. This research defines patterns of drinking among various youth in this County. This report also describes the Border Youth Group Partnership, a coalition of health and law enforcement agencies that developed a series of strategies to reduce the public health and safety problems occurring among youth crossing the border to drink in Mexico. The Board also authorized the Clerk of the Board to execute a revenue agreement with the State Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs in the amount of $250,000 for the U.S.-Mexico Border Substance Abuse Grant Initiative. This agreement stipulated the Institute for Health Advocacy as the subcontractor to provide direct prevention services for the Border Project.

On November 6, 1998, a summit was convened with elected officials and representatives from law enforcement as well as representatives from Mexico to receive a status report on efforts to reduce underage drinking in Mexico and discuss strategies to address this issue. Several additional intervention strategies were identified which included the need to address radio advertisements targeted at underage youth and the need to involve the military in education and prevention efforts. A presentation was also made at this summit that demonstrated the effectiveness to date of the Border Project in reducing the number of youth crossing the border to drink in Mexico on high-volume weekends. The U.S. Customs estimated a 25 percent reduction of youth pedestrian traffic on traditional high-volume weekends since implementation of the Border Project in 1997.

Subsequently, the Pacific Institute of Research and Evaluation, the agency funded by the National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse to conduct research for the project, issued a report on September 25, 1998. The report concluded that there was a 31.7 percent reduction in U.S. youth pedestrian traffic to Mexico in 1998 from the 1997 base year. This reduction in youth traffic coincides with a similar trend in reduced law enforcement and emergency medical service calls to the border region.

Despite the tremendous efforts and extensive partnerships that have been formed on both sides of the border, the problems associated with youth drinking in Mexico continue to affect both the U.S. and Mexico. Efforts must be stepped-up to engage military leaders in this county as well as school district officials to communicate the education, prevention and intervention message countywide. San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Alan Bersin has expressed an interest in spearheading education efforts on school sites and superintendents from the remaining school districts in this county will be invited to participate. Approval of these recommendations will allow this effort to continue and will also provide funding for the Institute for Health Advocacy to continue providing necessary staff and linkages to make this effort even more of a success.

Respectfully submitted,

Supervisor, Second District

Supervisor, First District