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Takoma Regional program teaches students about dangers of alcohol during prom season

Takoma Regional program teaches students about dangers of alcohol during prom season

GREENEVILLE – During prom season, several area high school students make a stop by Takoma Regional Hospital’s emergency department before driving away to enjoy the prom. They come to Takoma Regional to say hello. They come to show off their formal wear. They come to perhaps place a formal photo on the ED wall.

And they come to remind the ED staff they’ll keep their promise – no drinking and driving.

That pledge is part of “Prom Promise,” an alcohol awareness program the Takoma Regional ED staff organizes each year to share with area teenagers prior to prom night. Members of the Takoma Regional ED staff and others from the hospital, as well as representatives from other organizations, go to area high schools to illuminate the dangers of drinking and driving.

The program features speakers Karen Tilson and Lynn Parks, registered nurses at Takoma Regional who speak about the dangers of impaired driving and the fatal consequences that can result. Angie Horner and Jennifer Barham, RNs in the Takoma Regional ED, designed the program, which includes visual reminders such as video from actual car wrecks and a casket.

Prom Promise will visit three Greene County schools this year. It will be at Greeneville High School on Wednesday, April 2, at Chuckey-Doak on Tuesday, April 15, and West Greene on Thursday, April 24. Prom Promise also visits North Greene every other year. South Greene High School utilizes its own alcohol awareness program.

“We’re very adamant about not seeing any teenagers in our ER from accidents involving alcohol, and this program focuses on one of the most dangerous times for them – prom night,” said Ruth Matthews, director of the Takoma Regional emergency department. “For a long time, this was a problem for Greene County – we would have fatalities the weekend of prom night.

“Last year we had no student fatalities on prom night, which is wonderful. We hope this program makes a difference.”

The students apparently don’t forget. Matthews said several dropped by the ED last year to hang photos on the wall as a reminder they hadn’t forgotten a pledge sheet which students sign as a promise to say no to drugs and alcohol on prom night. Last year, a number of students from Chuckey-Doak created and signed a banner for Takoma Regional that the staff hung in the ED on prom night.

Matthews said the program is designed to make a dramatic impact, but there are fun moments as well. Students get the chance to wear depth-perception glasses that provide an approximation of driving under the influence, and they operate remote-controlled cars while wearing the glasses. Even that activity, which may lead to some giggles, has a teaching element.

“They’re amazed at how difficult it is, so they see how dangerous it would be if they drink and drive,” Matthews said. “It really makes an impact on them, which is what we want. We care about all of our students, and we want to see them graduate after the prom.”

Other program participants include the Wellmont One Air Transport, Greeneville Police Department, Greene County Sheriff’s Department, Greene County-Greeneville Emergency Medical Services, Greeneville Emergency & Rescue Squad, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Drug Abuse Resistance Education and Wings Air Rescue.