Hartford's outdoor concert season is about to start. And while that's fun for a lot of people, some call it a scheduled mass casualty event. As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, binge drinking is a serious concern for law enforcement and public health officials.
Dr. Steven Wolf doesn't mince his words. He says the Comcast Theatre in Hartford is known as a place where underage people can come and drink themselves to oblivion. "The younger ones are using this venue as sort of the vodka guzzling fest." Wolf is the ER chief at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center. He says that, a couple of years ago, about 700 underage drinkers had to be taken from the theater or its related parking lots to area hospitals over the course of the concert season.
Often, people who go don't have tickets for the show; they just go to tailgate beforehand. They frontload the alcohol, and they can't handle it. "Some are so intoxicated that they don't even recognize their parents. Many are transported vomiting into garbage bags, some are so inebriated and comatose that they require tubes placed into their lungs in order to keep them breathing or keep the massive amounts of vomit from being sucked into their lungs, causing death, as well."
Police say the problem is mostly at country music concerts, and the victims are girls and boys -- and, anecdotally, more girls than boys. Fortunately, the number of transports has decreased. Unfortunately, the amount of alcohol consumed by sick teenagers appears to be on the rise. "So while the numbers of transports have gone down, the seriousness of the alcohol overdose has increased."
Wolf spoke at a press conference with Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, law enforcement officers, and a representative of the Comcast Theatre. And he got right to the point. "Our fear is that one or more of these 14, 15, 16, and 17-year-olds will be found dead behind a parked car or in the bushes. We've come very close. Fortunately, not that far, yet."
While increased security measures are being planned by police and others, Wolf implored parents to educate their children before they drop them off.