The Opportunity Alliance’s (TOA) Public Health Program (PHP) proposes to implement community-driven efforts to advance substance use prevention in four communities in Cumberland County experiencing higher than average risk factors for early substance use and later disorder: Portland, South Portland, Westbrook and Bridgton, Maine. The Strategic Prevention Framework—Partnerships for Success project will impact youth aged 9-20 who are at the greatest risk for substance use and mental health disorders, including persons who have experienced trauma, are part of the immigrant and refugee community and/or identify as LGBT. The project will include a focus on specific neighborhoods to target indicated young people: East Bayside, Riverton and Parkside neighborhoods of Portland; Redbank/Brickhill neighborhood of South Portland; Brown St. in Westbrook; and Lower Main St., Bridgton. It will also focus on universal strategies to reach all youth living in the four communities through partnerships with schools and healthcare practices. The total number of people to be served annually is the entire population of youth 9-20 living in the service area: 14,653. Over the five-year project period, the number of unduplicated people served is 18,500.
Data reveals alcohol and marijuana are the substances most prevalently used by young people in the service area. The recreational use of marijuana was recently legalized in Maine, contributing to a low perception of harm among adults and youth as well as greater access to marijuana products. Because data strongly points to the early use of any substance as a risk factor for later substance use disorder, the project will address both underage drinking and marijuana use.
The specific goals of the project are: Goal 1: Decrease alcohol and marijuana use among at-risk persons aged 9-20 living in CPPC neighborhoods of Portland, South Portland, Westbrook and Bridgton, Maine; Goal 2: Decrease alcohol and marijuana use among persons aged 9-20 by increasing the capacity and improving the infrastructure of schools to meet the behavioral health needs of students; and Goal 3: Decrease youth alcohol and marijuana use by implementing evidenced-based practice improvements within the healthcare setting.
TOA proposes to use the following core strategies to meet project goals: (1) build upon work already happening in neighborhoods with the highest rates of child abuse and neglect to implement effective, evidence-based strategies to reduce substance use and address behavioral health disparities, (2) utilize a learning community model, convening four school districts to improve their behavioral health infrastructure through collaboration, and (3) partner with healthcare providers to implement evidence-based practice improvements to meet the behavioral health needs of young people at greatest risk for substance use.