NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It was over a decade ago when Alex Otte’s life dramatically changed.
“I was run over by a drunk driver about 13 years ago. I was sitting on a jet ski on a lake in Danville, Kentucky, and the drunk individual was in a boat,” she said. “I was very severely injured and sustained life-threatening and lifelong injuries from head to toe, including a traumatic brain injury, a broken neck and the loss of my right leg, among many other things.”
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Just a girl at the time, as Otte grew up, she began turning her experience into action. She joined a national nonprofit called Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and eventually became the president.
“It’s something that is always going to be a part of my life,” Otte said. “While I don’t ever want to be defined by what happened to me, it happened, and I’m who I am because of it.”
The organization has been working closely this year with Tennessee’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (DMSAS) and the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC). The pair launched a back-to-school campaign aimed at reducing underage drinking.
“Why are kids using these substances at such an early age?” Williamson Prevention Coalition Director Lyndsey Wilhelm said. “I really think the root cause of it comes down to mental health.”
The coalition works closes with the DMSAS, receiving grants to exist.
The two state entities release the results of a student survey every two years.
This year, about six in 10 students say alcohol is very easy or fairly easy to obtain, while 30% of students reported ever drinking alcohol.
“Their brains are still developing,” Wilhelm said. “So, we want to stop the behavior and educate on the risks that they’re taking whenever they’re using these substances at an early age to look out for their health and their development long-term.”
For Otte, she said every single day of her life got a little bit harder after the accident – though now she embraces it with a little humor.
“Every single part of my life got harder, and I can only think of one that got easier. We call handicapped parking ‘princess parking’ in my family,” she said with a laugh. “But other than that, everything else got hard and stayed hard.”