Family joins push for state alcohol bill

Proposal takes aim at youth drinking

By Moshay Simpson

January 15, 2004

The Stoefen family's loss has been a gain for the fight to end underage drinking.

It has been a year since the family of four buried Lisa, 21, the older of two sisters. She died in a single-car wreck after a night of drinking. Lisa had battled alcoholism since age 14, when she took her first drink at a party.

Now the Stoefens, who live in Rancho Bernardo, have redoubled their efforts to prevent youth from having access to alcohol.

Tuesday, Judy Stoefen and daughter Jennifer, 19, traveled to Sacramento to testify before the Assembly's Health Committee in support of Assembly Bill 216. The bill is known as Casey's Law, for Casey Goodwin, 20, an Exeter resident who was killed by an underage drunken driver.

The bill would levy a fee on the producers of beer and distilled spirits based on the percentage of sales believed to be going to youth. The money would go toward the development of youth alcohol recovery and prevention centers throughout the state.

Judy Stoefen didn't get to deliver her speech because the time for remarks was less thanshe was told. She didn't get to tell the committee that Lisa was a third-generation alcoholic who fought to stay sober and was sent to a recovery home out of state. She didn't get to share the statistics about underage drinking she has researched, either.

"I was pretty disappointed," she said. "Everything happened so fast."

Judy and Jennifer Stoefen were at the Capitol representing the North Inland Community Prevention Program, an organization that advocates against substance abuse. They have been involved with the program since 2000.

Dana Stevens, manager of the program, said the bill willbe before a legislative committee in the next two months. She said Judy and Jennifer Stoefen have been tremendous allies in the fight to curb alcohol abuse. The pair have worked with schools and local governments to draw attention to alcohol issues and said they will return to Sacramento when the bill returns for hearings.

"They're tireless," Stevens said.

In addition to their work in the community, the family operates a Web site in memory of Lisa, The site, designed by Lisa's father, Gary, tells her story. The overriding message of the site is the deadliness of alcohol for young people. The site offers links to prevention and recovery agencies, and statistics on drinking.

The site has generated more than 8,000 hits in a year.

"I didn't think it would take off this fast," Gary Stoefen said.

The Stoefens said they will continue their crusade to prevent underage drinking and fight alcoholism by speaking at schools, recovery homes and anywhere they are welcome. The family also is working with the grass-roots organization Hope Networks on a law that would require alcohol companies to include warning labels on their products with expanded information about the ills of consumption.

"We think it's time the alcohol companies are held accountable," Gary Stoefen said.

Moshay Simpson: (760) 737-7564;

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