LEWISTON – Three members of the Healthy Androscoggin Community Coalition met with Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe and Rep. Michael Michaud in Washington, D.C., in February.

Among items they discussed was the need to protect federal grant monies used for youth substance use prevention.

“The prevalence of underage drinking and substance use in our communities is frightening and when budgets get tight, often times prevention funding is the first to get cut,” said Angela Westhoff, executive director of Healthy Androscoggin.

Westhoff, Wendy Tardif, community health manager, and Vicky Wiegman, substance abuse counselor at Lewiston High School and founding member of the Healthy Androscoggin attended the national conference for Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America.

While attending the conference, more than 15 community leaders from various towns in Maine met on Capitol Hill to voice their concerns and protect federal grant funding.

The mission of the coalitions is to build and strengthen the capacity of community coalitions to create safe, healthy and drug-free communities.

The organization supports its members with technical assistance and training, public policy, media strategies and marketing programs, conferences and special events. For more information visit www.cadca.org.

Healthy Androscoggin’s Project Unite Committee’s goal is to increase awareness about the dangers of alcohol and substance use and to prevent youth substance use and abuse.

Coalition leaders have returned to Maine with useful information, ideas, strategies and model programs to help build community momentum to address the growing prevalence of high school and middle school youth using substances like tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and other drugs.

“Children who drink before the age of 15 are five times more likely to develop alcohol problems than those who start after 21. Young people need guidance as they develop into adulthood and it is up to the adults and media to present clear information and expectations. They need the best tools to make the best decisions that will most likely lead them to making healthy choices,” said Theresa Arita, a concerned parent.

Tardif said, “We need local solutions to local problems. We want to create a community-wide plan for reducing substance abuse and we need your input.”

Healthy Androscoggin invites the public to attend the Summit on Underage Drinking and Drugs from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, at Lewiston High School. Special guests will include Attorney General Steve Rowe and Michael Cantara, commissioner, Department of Public Safety. Call 795-5990 to register.

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