Photo Courtesy of Ingram Publishing

The Department of Public Health and Human Services is launching a new program this month that aims to reduce the sale of alcohol to minors in Montana. Planning and Outcome Officer Jackie Jandt said the Alcohol Reward and Reminder Program is an evidenced-based program developed to educate and/or reward local businesses for their efforts to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors.

"It's an educational program where very young looking 21-year-olds will enter in a store that sells alcohol or a bar and they will actually go to purchase the alcohol and they'll see if the server or the person selling the alcohol will card them to see if they are in fact 21-years-old," Jandt said.

Here’s how the program works:

·       Local retailers will be visited at least once a year by a team made up of a trained adult surveyor and a trained 21-year-old who looks underage.

·       The 21-year-old will attempt to purchase alcohol without any proof of age while the surveyor observes nearby.

·       If the clerk refuses the sale for not having any proof of age or any reason, the 21-year-old will leave the store and the surveyor will step forward and thank the clerk for checking ID’s and not selling alcohol to kids. The clerk will be given a Reward Card to fill out and mail in for a chance to win a $100 gift card drawn quarterly.

·       If the clerk does not ask for proper ID and appears willing to make a sale, the 21-year-old will NOT purchase alcohol but instead leave the store. The surveyor will then hand the clerk a Reminder Card that explains the potential legal consequences of selling to someone underage.

"Every licensee who has an alcohol license will be receiving at least one reward reminder visit throughout this next year," Jandt said. "It is divided into eight regions and we have eight regional teams that will go out to do this work."

Jandt said there will be 4,050 surveys completed every year during the five year grant period.

"In Montana, underage drinking is a serious public health concern," Jandt said. "Alcohol remains the number one drug of abuse for Montana's youth."

In fact, in 2012, results from the statewide Prevention Needs Assessment Survey of 14,575 students in grades 8, 10 and 12 revealed that 18.8 percent of 8th graders, 36.9 percent of 10th graders, and 49.5 percent of 12th graders had used alcohol within the past 30 days from when the survey was taken.

Jandt said this project is considered a pre-test before actual compliance checks are done across the state. The surveys will begin this month.

Jackie Jandt: