April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and the Berrien County Health Department is urging parents to keep an open dialogue with their kids about the dangers of underage alcohol abuse. Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist Lisa Peeples-Hurst tells WSJM News alcohol is harmful to developing brains, adding the drinking age of 21 is based on science.

“The human brain stops growing physically between age 21 and 25, and so if you introduce alcohol to a still-developing adolescent brain, it does have a direct effect,” Peeples-Hurst said.

Peeples-Hurst says it also leads to poor decisions and increased alcoholism later. She tells us alcohol can be a difficult subject for parents to bring up with their kids.

“Instead of making it the subject of a conversation, if you’re really regularly talking as a family about other things, and especially if you notice a difference in your child’s behavior, it’s OK to open the door.”

Peeples-Hurst notes Berrien County has 389 liquor licenses, and the health department works with police to ensure their owners are following the law. She also wants everyone to know there are resources to help those with a problem, telling us Riverwood and Carol’s Hope are among places to turn. The health department is hoping to expand its alcohol abuse efforts by working with college students on the issue of binge drinking. Parents are urged to check out TalkSooner.org or to reach out to the health department.