Making a Difference in Communities
Maine Prevention Network (MPN) is a statewide effort to implement evidence-based prevention strategies for Substance Use, Tobacco, Obesity, and Youth Engagement and Empowerment. It is supported by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, with local work being carried out by funded community partners.
Each of the public health districts in Maine receive funds to focus on this prevention work in their own communities.
Local awareness of each community’s unique strengths and needs, along with connections to make community changes are key to success.
“Maine CDC is committed to preventing and reducing substance use, misuse, and related problems. To do this, a coordinated and comprehensive public health approach is critical. Our MPN partners have longstanding relationships in their communities with schools, businesses, law enforcement, decisionmakers, youth, and are well suited to lead cross sector collaborative prevention work to address unique community needs while also impacting Maine CDC’s state level goals,” said Megan Scott, Maine CDC Substance Use Prevention Program Manager.
She went on to say, “Our MPN partners are trained prevention specialists who work every day to create healthy communities where youth and young adults can thrive and feel they matter. Their work is critical to reaching our vision of all people in Maine living in communities that support health, safety, and success, foster a strong social connectedness, and are free from the harmful effects of substance use.”
Two community partners shared their story on the substance use prevention work being done in their communities.
LeeAnna Lavoie, Director of Healthy Community Coalition (HCC) a Community Health program with MaineHealth, believes the funding will foster synergies. “One of the funding requirements is that we work collaboratively within our region and at the district level,” she said.
HCC is the lead for the Western Public Health District (comprising Franklin, Oxford and Androscoggin counties), with community coalitions carrying out the work in each county. HCC and Oxford County’s Healthy Oxford Hills are programs of MaineHealth. Oxford county’s second coalition is River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition, and Androscoggin County has Healthy Androscoggin.
LeeAnna values the state’s emphasis on youth initiatives in this round of funding because she believes primary prevention work will lay the foundation for a healthier lifespan. “Having this prevention funding strengthens our ability to provide evidence-based education in the schools to hopefully prevent or delay the onset of substance use,” she said.
- “Life Skills Training,” an evidence-based program for middle schoolers — Governor Mills provided prevention funding to work with 7th and 8th graders in this funding cycle. The Governor’s funding will support implementation of the life skills training in the District. The program helps youth resist drug, alcohol, and tobacco use, and effectively supports the reduction of violence and other high-risk behaviors.
- Engaging and recruiting a youth leadership team that will meet regularly to plan and host a youth leadership summit in Spring 2024, this specific project is funded by other funding but supports the MPN initiative. HCC’s incoming Board Chair is the youth representative and is assisting with youth meetings and recruitment efforts.
- A Student Intervention and Reintegration Program (SIRP), an alternative to suspension when a youth has violated substance use policy. SIRP targets high school students considered at risk — experimenting with or otherwise using alcohol or other drugs, but not needing treatment. The aim of SIRP is to empower youth to make healthy decisions and reduce the risk for problems in the future. The program focuses on reducing risk of alcohol and drug problems throughout their lifetime and reduce high-risk choices.
- Other programs include harm reduction efforts such as drug overdose education, as well as prevention efforts like safe medication disposal and a Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) Training Program to prevent underage sales of alcohol and sales to impaired individuals.
Across the state in the Downeast District, (Hancock and Washington Counties) prevention team members from Healthy Acadia are using the funding to address specific needs in their communities. “We will use this funding to support strategies for people of all ages to lead healthier, substance-free lives,” said Maria Donahue, MPH, MSW, Community Health & Prevention Director. “We are excited that the MPN work plan requires a mix of different types of activities, including environmental and policy strategies to reduce exposure and access to substances (including tobacco), collaboration with other community partners, direct education to individuals and groups, and harm reduction strategies to prevent overdose among those who are living with SUD.”
The Down East District Team is particularly enthusiastic about the MPN funding having a deliberate focus on youth prevention and leadership efforts, and that there is flexibility to develop alternative, creative prevention strategies for youth.
Some initiatives they’ll implement include:
- The continuation of a weeklong leadership camp for youth. According to Corrie Hunkler, Youth Engagement Coordinator, the camp offers youth a safe place to dive into issues that are important to them. The youth help decide workshop topics, ranging from coping strategies, to resilience building to prevention-based topics.
- The Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) Training Program, a training for servers, managers, and owners to curb harm related to underage drinking and the overuse of alcohol. “The training provides guidance to licensees on how to effectively and responsibly prevent alcohol sales to both minors and visibly intoxicated people,” said Mia Petrini, Community Health Coordinator –Hitchcock County.
- An opioid prevention project in schools, from the evidence-based Prevention Plus Wellness. The program is a one-hour, single-session curriculum for middle schoolers. It was piloted this spring in a school on Mount Desert Island. According to Mia, who presented the lesson, the students and teachers were pleased with its content and brevity.
- Distribution of Deterra bags, used for safe prescription drug removal. Deterra bags deactivate drugs, without contaminating the water supply. “The purpose is to reduce the likelihood of anyone intentionally or unintentionally using the discarded drugs,” said Katie Sell, Community Health Coordinator, Washington County.
These combined efforts make us optimistic that more lives will be saved through prevention, treatment and recovery made possible by the commitment of Maine’s leadership.