Community and youth forum set for Friday

Posted: Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Since the Juneau Mayor's Task Force on Youth began 10 years ago in the wake of a teen suicide, more services and opportunities for young people have become available. But the use of illegal drugs by Juneau youths remains above the national average, according to a report from the panel.

The task force will hold a community meeting Friday afternoon and evening at the Marie Drake gym to create recommendations to direct the group in the next decade.

The event starts at 2:30 p.m. with pizza and informational booths by organizations that provide services to young people. From 3:30 to 5 p.m. and from 6 p.m. into the evening attendees will be asked to meet in groups arranged by specific topics. A spaghetti feed, Native dance performance and speeches are planned for 5 to 6 p.m.

In the past 10 years "we really have focused on drug and alcohol abatement among youth," said Laury Scandling, Juneau-Douglas High School liaison to the task force. "Is that appropriate for the next 10 years? How can we best support youth as we enter the next 10 years - that's the goal."

The task force's status report, released this week, finds some indicators that seem to show improved health and well-being of Juneau's young people since 1993. It cites more enforcement of tobacco and alcohol laws, a lesser rate of teen pregnancy, fewer suicides, a lower dropout rate and more recreation opportunities.

But the report also points to continuing use of alcohol and other drugs, a jump in motor-vehicle deaths of youths, a slightly greater percentage of children in poverty, low wages for young adults, inconsistently offered mental-health services, and few emergency beds for homeless young people.

Task force member Ernie Mueller said there are many more recreational opportunities and confidential health services for local youths now than 10 years ago. But most recreation programs are for younger children, he said.

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