Someone trying to sneak into Lollapalooza injured their knee trying to scale a fence Aug. 1, 2019.

Festival-goers crowd into Grant Park on day one of Lollapalooza 2015 on July 31, 2015. | Ashlee Rezin/for Sun-Times Media

Sun-Times file photo

Number of teens in ER after Lollapalooza drinking stays high

SHARE Number of teens in ER after Lollapalooza drinking stays high
SHARE Number of teens in ER after Lollapalooza drinking stays high

The number of intoxicated teens admitted to emergency rooms near Grant Park over Lollapalooza weekend stayed high this year, according to an initial survey of hospitals.

Early data from four hospitals show more than 184 people were brought to emergency rooms from the festival between July 31 and Aug. 2, the majority teens and young people suffering from drug and alcohol-related problems.

The extreme drinking at the three-day music festival is part of a trend first reported by researchers at Lurie Children’s Hospital in a study released last week.

Lurie found 102 teens visited the emergency room for alcohol-related illnesses during Lollapalooza weekend last year, according to the study.

While preliminary hospital data needs to be checked for duplication, it does show the issue persists, the researchers say.

“Underage drinking continues to be a problem during the weekend of Lollapalooza,” said Rebecca Levin, strategic director of the injury prevention and research center at Lurie and one of the researchers involved in the original study.

“We are particularly concerned about the excess drinking that leads kids to go to the hospital,” she said.

At Northwestern Memorial Hospital, one mile from Grant Park, 86 people were transported to the emergency room from Lollapalooza – the majority with alcohol-related issues, according to Dr. Sanjeev Malik, medical director of Northwestern’s Emergency Department.

Just five of the 86 were under 17, Malik said, but a large proportion of the rest were in their late teens and early 20s.

“This is generally our busiest weekend of the year as far as sheer volume,” Malik said. “Some of it is related to Lollapalooza.”

Malik said the weekend of Lollapalooza has been the emergency room’s busiest “at least the last three to four years.”

“Certainly the alcohol intoxication is a predominant portion of the business related to Lollapalooza,” Malik said. “That’s been consistent throughout the three to four years. This was a high volume year.”

A University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago spokeswoman said the hospital’s emergency room had about 30 teens and young people brought in from Lollapalooza for alcohol and drug-related issues. Lurie received 33 teens and Rush got 35, according to the hospitals.

Cook County’s Stroger Hospital took in 30 people from Lollapalooza, with the majority of patients suffering from alcohol and drug-related problems, a spokeswoman said. The ages of the patients were not available.

Melissa Stratton, spokeswoman for the Office of Emergency Management and Communication, which managed the event for the city, said the 238 total emergency medical transports from the festival were down from 303 in 2014.

And while Chicago Police officers are present at the festival, its not clear if they wrote any citations for underage drinking this year.Despite repeated requests, the Chicago Police did not provide the number of drinking citations issued over Lollapalooza weekend by Friday evening.

Chicago Police officers are stationed outside the festival for support while a private security company handles issues inside the venue, saidAnthony Guglielmi, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department.

The officers are there “to supplement and enforce the laws,” Guglielmi said. While it is not their only concern, officers “are looking for underage drinking,” he said.

“As with any event, underage drinking is not allowed at Lollapalooza and the ordinance was enforced over the three days,” Stratton said.

“The Chicago Police Department was onsite to assist event security in their efforts to ensure underage kids were not entering the event under the influence or drinking while at the festival.As with all special events held in the city, we will host an after action meeting with all of the involved city departments and the organizers to review Lollapalooza 2015. In that meeting we will review the successes we experienced during this year’s festival and will begin discussions about how to improve next year’s event,” she said.

Efforts to reach C3 Presents, the organizers of Lollapalooza, were unsuccessful Friday.

The police department has no formal program to combat underage drinking, Guglielmi said.

Lurie has teamed up with the Illinois Department of Public Health to build a coalition against underage drinking in the city.

The group, which includes the Chicago Police Department, the Liquor Control Commission, Chicago Public Schools and more, recently had its first meeting and is in the very early planning stages, Levin said.

“We have to look at multiple levels that affect teens’ drinking: Their belief this is a normal, appropriate thing to do, their access to alcohol, changing the norms among teens about drinking,” Levin said.

“We are increasingly realizing these risk-taking behaviors are predictable and preventable. We have this obligation to protect our kids and do right by them. This is a piece of that,” she said.

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