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Maine gets $2.6M grant to reduce alcohol, drug use
STATE — Maine has received a federally-funded $2.6 million grant to help reduce alcohol use, prescription drug abuse and marijuana use among Maine's youth, the Maine Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHS) announced in October.
The Strategic Prevention Framework Partnerships for Success II grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Maine will receive nearly $891,000 per year from the three-year grant, which aims to reduce underage alcohol use among 10-12 year olds and prescription drug abuse and marijuana use among 12-25 year olds, according to John Martins, spokesman for Maine's Department of Health and Human Services.
"Across the country, those are the challenges for most states ... for those particular populations," Martins explains.
According to SAMHS Director Guy Cousins, last year Maine successfully reduced youth substance abuse with the first Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive grant.
In a press release he states, "this new grant will focus on supporting strong collaboration at the state and local levels to use proven prevention strategies that have produced positive, measurable results."
The goal is to identify problems throughout the state surrounding the three target issues, says Martins.
In a 2011 survey provided by the Maine Office of Substance Abuse (OSA), Maine high school students reported using alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs within the past 30 days.
Twenty-eight percent of students grades nine through 12 said they had used alcohol; 22.1 percent used marijuana and 7.1 percent used prescription drugs – a slight improvement over 2009.
In addition, 15.5 percent reported they had smoked cigarettes and 4.5 percent of students said they used inhalants.
Chris Davis, chair of the Substance Abuse Task Force for Healthy Oxford Hills, says the money received through the grant will be used in a few ways.
According to Davis, HOH is working on a Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), a state-run electronic database used to track the prescribing and dispensing of controlled prescription drugs to patients.
They are designed to monitor the information for suspected abuse or diversion, she says, and the sooner high-risk users are identified, the sooner they can benefit from early intervention.
It is also working on the Student Intervention and Reintegration Program (SIRP), a substance abuse prevention program, which is a 12-hour course designed to specifically prevent and reduce the further use of drugs and alcohol among teens.
The grant also allows HOH to continue to increase awareness in the community about the risk of marijuana use, she says, as "it continues to be the most commonly used illicit drug."
"New research shows a link between marijuana and mental health," Davis explains.
"Frequent use can double a teens risk of depression and anxiety. There are a lot of effects that are unknown," she says, "so the new grant will allow us to put out some of the new facts about marijuana publicly."
In the Western Maine District, which also includes Franklin and Androscoggin counties, 22 percent of high school students reported in 2011 they had used marijuana within the past 30 days and 7 percent reported they had used prescription drugs not prescribed by a doctor, according to the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey.
Twenty-seven percent of high school students in western Maine in 2011 had at least one alcoholic drink within a 30-day span, just 1 percent lower than the statewide average.
Sixteen percent of high school students in 2011 reported binge drinking – five or more drinks within 30 days – just 2 percent lower than in 2009 and 1 percent lower than the statewide average.