By MIRANDA ORSO
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Area student organizations, restaurants and bars are invited to learn some helpful tips on how to prevent alcohol misuse and abuse.
Since 2004, the Training for Intervention Procedures program, known as TIPS, has helped businesses and schools in Clinton County gain valuable skills to prevent intoxication, drunken driving and underage drinking.
Jessica Mathews, project coordinator for the Drug-Free Community Support Program of the Plattsburgh Campus and Community Partnership, helped develop the local version of the national program, working alongside area police to educate any business with a liquor license.
“We work together as a collaborative community effort,” she said.
Together with the Plattsburgh Campus Community Alcohol and Other Drug Task Force, the Clinton County District Attorney’s Office and the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office STOP-DWI program, Mathews coordinates the TIPS training sessions.
“We have trainers available for on-campus meetings and community reps for businesses,” she added.
Sgt. Frank Mercier, STOP-DWI coordinator with the Sheriff’s Office, said the number of drunken-driving arrests in the county shows a need for education and understanding.
“The District Attorney’s Office has prosecuted about 500 drunken-driving cases already this year,” he told the Press-Republican. “The county averages about 600 (annually).”
He said the program focuses on how to recognize someone who may be intoxicated but also aims for prevention.
TIPS is offered free of charge, a savings of about $2,000, thanks to grants and money gained from STOP-DWI enforcement, Mercier said.
Mathews breaks the program down into three categories: university, on-premises and off-premises training.
“We offer a lot of resources for students at Plattsburgh State University and work annually with the fraternities and sororities,” she said. “We’ve also worked with the fraternities and sororities and with the athletic teams, like hockey, basketball and lacrosse.”
The on-premises program includes restaurants or bars that serve alcohol. Off-premises training is provided for employees of establishments that solely sell beer, like Stewart’s Shops.
“We try to design the programs around the people they are serving,” Mathews added.
TIPS is designed to enhance the basic “people skills” of servers, sellers and consumers of alcohol and provides them with the necessary knowledge and confidence to recognize a potential alcohol-related issue.
“We want to have a safe community. We understand that there will be drinking and parties, but we also want to promote doing it in a responsible way while avoiding underage drinking,” Mathews said.
She stresses the importance of being responsible at parties when addressing students, offering peer-to-peer training and effective intervention in social situations.
Mathews said students need to understand how important it is to make sure everyone at their party is older than 21 and the consequences involved should an alcohol-related accident occur.
“In the event someone gets hurt or they hurt someone else, students need to understand that the place where the alcohol was consumed can be held liable,” she said.
The same goes for restaurants and bars.
The program teaches restaurants how to offer responsible beverage service, and provides an understanding of blood alcohol content, intoxication factors, tolerance and signs of impaired judgment.
As a result of providing the training for staff members, restaurants may be eligible for lowered insurance rates, Mathews added.
The program also trains law enforcement on compliance check issues, helping employees who may get caught selling to minors.
Someone who sells alcohol to minors may be ordered to attend a TIPS class to learn about the dangers of underage drinking.
“Through TIPS, we can teach them this is what to look for and what questions to ask,” Mathews said.
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For more information on how to get TIPS training for your restaurant, store or organization, visit www.gettips.com.