A recent study showing living in a regional area is a strong predictor of later risky drinking highlights the need for more funding for prevention services.

The Ten to Men study found boys (aged 10-17) living in a regional or rural area were almost twice as likely as their city-based peers to be drinking at risky levels over a 10-year period.

“Risky drinking behaviour is usually the result of a ‘perfect storm’,” General Manager of Alcohol & Other Drugs at Gateway Health Maryanne Donnellan said.

“The brain isn’t fully developed until the mid to late twenties, this combined with young people’s tendency to push the boundaries means young people are more likely to engage in risky behaviour. Then they may experience problems at home, at school or in their relationships that lead them to turn to alcohol.”

Gateway Health offers the Youth Alcohol and Other Drug Outreach program to young people aged 12 to 25. It’s a free and confidential treatment service that is tailored to meet a young person’s needs such as a drug and alcohol assessment, peer support, counselling and referral to a treatment centre if needed.

The program also provides information and education on alcohol and drugs at high schools, and through youth groups. This program is delivered by Gateway Health.

“Community Health plays such an important role in addressing health care needs especially when it comes to prevention,” Chief Executive Office of Gateway Health Trent Dean said.

“We’ve built relationships with local schools, councils and other agencies to help us connect with and educate young people about the risks of using alcohol and other drugs.”

Most of the funding Gateway Health receives goes to treating those who have developed a dependence on alcohol or other drugs.

“Resources to support those with alcohol or other drugs dependence are stretched thin, that’s why it’s important to put more funding towards prevention rather than intervention,” Mr Dean said.

“It’s easier to educate and warn young people about risky drinking behaviour before it becomes problematic.”

The Youth Alcohol and Other Drug Outreach program is offered at Gateway Health in Wangaratta and Wodonga, and also provides regular outreach services to the communities of Benalla, Mansfield, Myrtleford, Beechworth, Mount Beauty, Corryong, Tallangatta, and Alpine.

Gateway Health provides community health and wellbeing services to individuals, families and communities across North East Victoria and parts of Southern New South Wales with a focus on the provision of services to people at the highest risk of poor health outcomes.

While Gateway Health receives government funding to support the critical work it does, it is also open to donations and sponsorship to help it continue the vital work it does for those experiencing diverse health and wellbeing needs. To make a donation, please visit the Gateway Health website.