PARIS — Healthy Oxford Hills will host a public forum Thursday on substance abuse and addiction, and ways to address those issues with younger children.

“Our ultimate goal is to start some discussions with kids at a younger age,” Jessica Abbott, substance use prevention coordinator for Healthy Oxford Hills, said. “If nothing else, we want to get the conversation started on substance abuse, and addiction in general, whether it’s food, or games, or cellphones. Getting the conversation started at an age-appropriate level is important, so when they get older, they’re better equipped to deal with it.”

The forum is set for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School on Route 26. 

Abbott said the idea for the meeting came after Emily Eastman, Health Oxford Hills’ tobacco prevention coordinator, read the book, “The Seventh Wish” by Kate Messner. The book was recommended by Oxford Elementary School teacher Melissa Guerrette, Abbott said.

“The Seventh Wish” is a child’s point of view of a family dealing with substance abuse and addiction.

According to Abbott, Guerrette has written a teachers’ manual for the book for her students.

“After Emily read it, we tried figuring out what we could do to bring the lessons in this book into the area,” Abbott said.

She said the original plan was to try to get the book into schools with fifth grade classes, because it ties into some of their curriculum.

The plan evolved into a public meeting where parents, students, professionals and others could discuss the issue, ask questions and provide information and resources.

Abbott said eventually Healthy Oxford Hills wants to form a planning committee consisting of community members to continue discussing substance abuse and addiction and reducing the stigma surrounding them.

“Whether we bring this information to the schools, or just do it through the town libraries, we want to get the information out there to the different areas in the community,” Abbott said.

For more information on the forum, call Abbott or Eastman at 739-6222 or email them at [email protected] or [email protected].

[email protected]

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