Guardsman says health coalition could benefit from partnership

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RUMFORD — The River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition heard Thursday afternoon from Robert Mooney of the Maine National Guard about its substance abuse prevention program.

Meeting at the Rumford Public Library, the coalition invited the noncommissioned officer for civil operations to speak about what the Guard could offer the coalition if it were to join.

“You might ask yourself, ‘What would the coalition get if we were to team up with the National Guard,’” Mooney said. “The answer is a lot. We both have the same goals in mind: to reduce the demand of drugs to Maine’s youth. I’m just here to help out and put a different spin on things.”

According to Mooney, if the National Guard were to join the coalition, he would be able to provide access to specific buildings, such as armories for larger meetings, as well as help coordinate 5k runs and similar events.

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“The military is pretty big on us forming strategies and coming up with a plan,” Mooney added. “You could utilize me in that way if you wanted.”

Mooney pointed out several programs the National Guard offers to Maine youth to help combat the demand for drugs. They include an Adventure Based Learning Experience class or a ropes course. The class involves the National Guard talking to youth about marijuana, alcohol, bullying, peer pressure and prescription drugs.

“It’s not a lecture-type class all day,” he later clarified. “We do a lot of activity-based things.”

The ropes course, according to Mooney, is a free program for students to “improve their self-confidence, focus on positive risk-taking and positive peer pressure and teach them how to work better in a group. We’ll keep them busy and zinging around the ropes course for awhile, and then we’ll calm down for a bit, pick a wood tick or two off our legs and talk about the course.”

Most popular with Maine youths is the rappelling course, he said.

“It’s easily the funnest thing we have, but a lot of the kids are scared to death of it,” Mooney laughed. “The ladies are the bravest. The guys will quit right in the middle of the course, but I haven’t seen a single lady back down. They may be bawling the entire way down, but they’ll do the whole thing.”

Coalition member Sandra Witas asked Mooney what prompted the National Guard to want to be involved with coalitions in the region.

Mooney said the Guard has always done school activities and worked with the youth.

“There’s a program called Drug Demand Reduction, or D.D.R, that we developed that seeks to reduce the demand of drugs at a young age, especially while kids are in seventh or eighth grade,” he said. “Partnering up with a coalition is beneficial for everybody involved. We get some of our best ideas from the coalitions we’re a part of.”

mdaigle@sunjournal.com

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