Maine Substance Use Prevention Services’ (SUPS) 21 local agency partners collectively work to implement activities to reduce young people’s substance use and misuse, and the resulting impact on the health, safety, and success of Maine individuals, families, and communities.
The efforts of the Maine SUPS program address individual, family, peer group, organizational, and community factors that influence people’s substance use choices. This comprehensive approach treats substance use prevention as a community-wide matter — which research has shown to be more effective than trying to address it through individual-focused initiatives. These comprehensive efforts impact people’s perceptions about how acceptable, normal, and easy it is to use substances.
Attitudes, knowledge, and perceived norms are all very powerful influences on people’s substance use behaviors. Research has shown that:
- If young people believe their peers, family, and community are not okay with them using substances, they are less likely to use.
- If a person believes there are many people who do not use substances, it can help them to not use or use less, and to see that they are not alone in doing so.
- If people have adequate awareness and skills around seeing how substance use can interfere with what is important to them, they are less likely to use.
- If people believe that a substance is hard to get, they are less likely to use that substance at all or will use less.
Maine Substance Use Prevention Program partners implement research-based, state-approved interventions, to best meet the needs, capacity, and readiness of the people and communities they serve. To determine these factors, the partners look at state and local data around substance use behaviors, attitudes/perceptions, and consequences. They also engage people from communities and systems in processes to identify areas for effort and improvement at the local, regional, and state levels. This data-driven decision-making and planning also helps measure change over time.
Based on the needs assessment, the program and its partners create annual plans around what prevention efforts are the best fit for their service area. Their plans include activities that fall into the following areas.
Information Dissemination efforts are social media, print, and electronic messages that increase awareness, knowledge, and prevention-minded norms around substance use and misuse. These may relate to people’s own substance use or talk about how to help support others in not using substances. Our partners create messages around the impact of substance use on the developing teen brain and school performance, safe storage and disposal of substances to prevent illegal use or misuse, and how parents can set rules and monitor their teen to prevent substance use.
Education efforts include interaction sessions and lessons to increase participants’ knowledge, skills, and/or capacity for doing something to prevent substance use. For example, the Prime For Life Universal program teaches substance use as a health issue that participants can make choices to increase or decrease their risk for. The program provides information about things that increase someone’s chances for developing an unhealthy relationship with a substance, and has participants reflect on what is important to them that substance use could interfere with.
Environmental management efforts show how where people live, learn, work, and play which may be influencing substance use behaviors. Activities in this area focus on how three factors influence substance use.
- Access to substances impacts how likely someone is to start using, as well as how often and to what extent people use substances. To address this, partners look at where the substances sold, how and where the substances are stored, how easy is to get the substances illegally and how affordable the substances are. Efforts to address access to substances include safe storage messaging campaigns, drug disposal and take-back events, and responsible beverage sales training for businesses that sell alcohol.
- Policies and their enforcement influence behaviors and provide consequences for undesirable use. To address this, partners look at if policies around substance use exist in organizations or communities, if people know about existing policies well enough and if people believe these policies are enforced and that violations have reasonable consequences? Efforts to impact policies and enforcement include supporting schools and employers in revising their substance use policies and consequences, as well as supporting law enforcement in efforts to enforce underage drinking laws that relate to providing alcohol to youth or hosting illegal substance use parties.
- Social Norms are the attitudes and perceptions of a group or community that can influence substance use behaviors by sending messages about what is normal and accepted by others. Efforts around this include presenting information to youth and adults to show that most young people are not using substances; and empowering peers, parents, and other adults who do not support young people’s substance use to speak up against it.
Community-based process efforts engage people from different roles in a community to be part of the solution to substance use. Maine Substance Use Prevention partners gather key people and organizations, as well as youth and concerned adults to improve communication, collaboration, and coordination around substance prevention. Efforts include coalition meetings to discuss issues and solutions, community stakeholder trainings to increase awareness and capacity to deal with substance use risk factors or issues present locally, and data-driven planning of efforts.
Problem Identification and Referral efforts intervene with substance use behaviors before they become more troubling or progress to the point of being a diagnosable substance use disorder. These efforts help people and/or the people in their lives to recognize and think about how substance use behaviors could negatively impact a person’s life and connect them with information or support services that provide support in making changes to avoid future use or unwanted impacts.
Alternative efforts engage young people in preventing substance use among themselves and their peers. Typically, these young people participate in — and often lead — efforts to improve awareness about substance use as something they are concerned about and want to help combat. Some Maine SUPS partners have worked with existing youth-serving organizations or started substance use prevention-specific youth groups to create informational campaigns, public service announcements, and/or in-person events that use the youth voice y to promote substance use prevention information or healthy norms.
Three of Maine Substance Use Prevention Program’s partners — the city of Portland, Healthy Androscoggin, and Healthy Communities of the Capital Area — implemented Innovation Projects based on a competitive application process and awarded annually. The projects aim to adapt an existing prevention approach to address a new area of need, setting, or population to help identify new programs or practices to close gaps. The city of Portland’s project addressed substance use among the teen and young adult homeless population. Healthy Androscoggin’s project customized and translated existing information into materials for immigrant and refugee populations in Lewiston to make the information appropriate and understandable. Healthy Communities of the Capital Area (HCCA) engaged youth and stakeholders from the Central Public Health District (Kennebec and Somerset counties), as well at OUT Maine, in efforts to assess substance use and factors which contribute to it among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ+) high-school students. HCCA then worked with district partners and OUT Maine to give trainings to people who work with LGBTQ+ youth to provide information on how to support resiliency and support them in overcoming risk factors for substance use.
UNE provides quality assurance and continuous quality improvement to managing the substance use prevention grant. UNE monitors a progress report that includes data regarding community interventions and activities across Maine. This monitoring tool provides us the opportunity to track progress, identify challenges, and highlight accomplishments in a timely manner. This centralized report allows us to provide clear communication of efforts and achievements to the Maine CDC. The Maine CDC subcontracts with Hornby Zeller Associates (HZA) to provide evaluation of the SAMHSA Partnership for Success and Strategic Prevention Framework for Prescription Drug grants, two funding sources for the Maine SUPS program. UNE coordinates its quality assurance processes with HZA.