The Be the Influence Coalition: A Windham Raymond Collaborative has been busy this year starting to dig into youth substance use prevention work and building capacity by recruiting members and forming subcommittees. The BTI Coalition, which formed in March of last year, has as its mission to promote community collaboration and positive choices in an effort to reduce youth substance use and abuse with attention on prevention and education for youth and adults in an effort to ensure a healthy community. The BTI Coalition aims to be representative of all those who interact with youth, have an interest in preventing youth substance use, and youth themselves and varies widely from school representatives to law enforcement to libraries to businesses and community organizations.
The BTI Coalition recognizes the need for youth substance use prevention and the need for a community response. Tobacco use continues to be an ongoing problem for Windham and Raymond youth. According to the 2013 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey (MIYHS), 19 percent of Windham High School students reported smoking cigarettes compared to 11 percent in Cumberland County. Twenty-two percent of Windham High School students reported marijuana use in the past 30 days. Alcohol remains the most commonly used substance by young people in Windham and Raymond. In 2013, 24 percent of Windham High School students reported drinking alcohol and 15 percent reported binge drinking in the past 30 days.
To help with reducing these rates, and as mentioned in a Windham Eagle article earlier this year, the BTI Coalition has submitted a federal grant application for the Drug Free Communities Support Program. This grant could bring a potential $125,000 each year, for five years to the communities of Windham and Raymond as they work to strengthen community collaboration and reduce and prevent youth substance use.
Aside from submitting the grant, the BTI Coalition has been busy increasing their numbers and forming subcommittees to address the various aspects of youth substance use prevention work. Some of this work includes creating youth action committees at each of the schools and gathering substance use policies to make sure they are aligned with best practice guidelines. The Youth Action Committee at Windham High School was recently invited to Jordan-Small Middle School for a meet and greet with the rising eighth graders. The goal was to assist the eighth graders in their transition to high school and help them discover ways to become active and involved in the high school community, learn more about the BTI Coalition, and become familiar with some of the new faces at the high school. BTI Coalition member and the Windham High School social worker, Doug Daigle, and the School Resource Officer, Officer Jeff Smith, were also involved in the meet and greet. Some of the plans for the summer and upcoming school year include reaching out to the business community to gain their support in youth substance use prevention, holding parent educational forums, working with school athletics to strengthen the substance use prevention message, and creating youth mentor groups around substance use prevention.
This summer the BTI Coalition will be at both the Windham Summerfest and Everybody Hearts Raymond, ME events. If you are interested in becoming involved or learning more about the BTI Coalition, please visit our booth at either event. Interested community members are also encouraged to find more information on the BTI Coalition website: www.betheinfluencewrw.org or email the BTI Coalition at: email@example.com.