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Mission: To foster a healthy, safe and productive County through the reduction of substance abuse.



Vision: Communities without substance abuse.


Download our Latest Newsletter - Published September 2011


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Mark Shea Project Director 207-498-9952
Bethany Zell Developmental Asset Educator 207-551-4284
Robyn Holdsworth Prevention Educator 207-551-9545



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Change the Message

23% of full-time college students report binge drinking three or more times during the previous two weeks…

50% of America's 5.4 million full-time college students abuse drugs or drink alcohol on binges at least once a month…

This spring, many County parents witnessed a child graduate from high school. In August a number of those same parents will leave a child at a college dorm and pray that the choices he makes in the months ahead will lead to personal growth rather than self-destruction. Why do so many college youth choose to engage in the self-destructive behavior of binge drinking (having five drinks for males and four drinks for females at one "drinking occasion”)? Two explanations are that binge drinking is fashionable and our culture gives mixed messages about alcohol consumption.

First, binge drinking is perceived as “fashionable” by a high percentage of college students. According to a 2008 study published by British researchers, 18-24 year old binge drinkers believe that all or most of their friends are binge drinkers as well. They copy the behavior of their friends, family members and colleagues. Binge drinking is the “in” thing to do.

Second, our culture gives young adults mixed messages about alcohol consumption. Media and advertisements sell social drinking, and in particular binge drinking, as a fun, typical activity for young adults. Moreover, although alcohol advertising was once illegal in Maine, State and Federal legislative bodies no longer closely regulate alcohol advertising. In 2003, the Beer Institute and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States voluntarily agreed to limit television advertising only to programs with adult audiences of 70% or greater. Not surprisingly, a 2007 study by Georgetown University's Center on Alcohol Advertising and Youth (CAMY) revealed that volunteer controls have not been implemented by a number of major brewers, including Budweiser, Miller, Coors, Hennessey Cognac, Smirnoff Vodka and Mike's Hard Lemonade. In fact, "youth ages 12-20 were exposed to an average of 216 TV ads for alcohol beverages in 2007, up from 201 in 2001.

Youth also receive mixed messages through adults. On the one hand, adults tell youth they have to wait to drink until they are 21 while on the other hand adult strangers, family members, acquaintances or store clerks are often the suppliers of alcohol to minors. A new survey found that 40% of youth under 21 said “they got their drinks for free from an adult…about one in four got their alcohol from an unrelated adult, about 6% got alcohol from a parent or guardian, and about 8% received their drinks from another family member.”

So what does all this mean? We as a society and community have to get our story straight. We have to communicate one, unified and consistent message to youth: underage and binge drinking is unsafe and unhealthy. This must be conveyed through media and adult behavior that communicates that binge drinking is unfashionable, by passing legislation placing limits on how alcohol can be advertised and imposing fines on violators, and by holding adults accountable when they supply alcohol to minors.

In 1908 there wasn’t a significant problem with youth binge drinking because the culture gave a clear message that doing so was unacceptable. We have to resurrect that message if we want to save our youth from self-destruction.

Statistics cited above are from a 2007 study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University and from Join Together. Quotes are from articles published by Join Together.

Lowering drinking age not the solution to college binge drinking

Last week, a large group of college/university presidents joined together to voice their support for lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18.

Proponents of such changes may not be aware that reverting to these policies costs lives. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has compiled
strong evidence demonstrating the consequences of lowering the drinking age. For example:

  • As one of the most studied public health laws in history, the scientific research from more than 50 high-quality studies all found that the 21 law saves lives. Studies show that the 21 law causes those under the age of 21 to drink less and to continue to drink less throughout their 20s.
  • About 5,000 people under age 21 die each year due to underage drinking. This does not include sexual assaults, violence and injuries.
  • The earlier youth drink (average age of first drink is about 16), the more likely they will become dependent on alcohol and drive drunk later in life.
  • Setting the drinking age at 21 has saved lives on our roads. Between 1983 and 1989, the number of drivers at a .10 BAC (the old illegal limit for adults) involved in fatal crashes increased, except for two age groups – 16-20 year olds, which decreased 32 percent, and 21-24 year olds, which decreased 18 percent.
  • The Centers for Disease Control has looked at 49 peer-reviewed studies of places that changed their drinking age and found conclusively that a 21 minimum drinking age decreases fatalities by 16 percent.
  • All underage drinking is unsafe drinking. Research has shown that the brain continues to
    develop into the early twenties. The part that controls reasoning and cognitive ability takes the longest to mature; thus, underage drinking, especially heavy drinking, affects memory and reasoning. The part of the brain responsible for forming new memories, is noticeably smaller in youth who abuse alcohol. Alcohol use in adolescence also decreases executive functioning, memory, spatial operations, and attention among adolescents.

Make a decision and take a stand: voice your support for the 21 mimimum legal drinking age to your friend, family and legislators.

Bulleted information above is a summary of MADD's data written by Ken Shapiro of the Office of National Dru Control Policy.

The Hopeful Message of the 40 Developmental Assets


Are you concerned about your own kids, your neighbors’ kids, students in your classrooms, the youth in your congregation and youth in general? What if I told you the secret to raising happy, healthy, and responsible adults isn’t really a secret at all. It is simply stated all about building relationships, connecting with young people: Get to know them, talk to them, understand them, and help them. Supportive and caring adults are the key to positive change for youth. When the people and places of the community make a commitment to join together to embrace, invest in and engage with youth as both gifts and resources for today and into the future change happens. All kids are our kids…today is the day for change.

Here are the facts

Research from Search Institute identifies 40 Developmental Assets that all young people need in their lives to succeed. The higher number of assets in children or teenagers lives, the fewer risky behaviors exhibited and the more likely they are to make wise decisions, choose positive paths, grow up competent, caring and responsible. Unfortunately according to Search Institute surveys the average young person has only 18 assets out of the 40 assets identified. The exciting news is anyone can build assets! It costs nothing, is not radical, experimental or theological.

Understanding Developmental Assets

The eight asset categories Search Institute has found crucial in helping young people grow up healthy include:

  • Support: Young people need to be surrounded by people who love, care for, appreciate, and accept them.
  • Empowerment: Young people need to feel valued and valuable. This happens when youth feel safe and respected.
  • Boundaries and Expectations: Young people need clear rules, consistent consequences for breaking rules, and encouragement to do their best.
  • Constructive Use of Time: Young people need opportunities—outside of school—to learn and develop new skills and interests with other youth and adults.
  • Commitment to Learning: Young people need a sense of the lasting importance of learning and a belief in their own abilities.
  • Positive Values: Young people need to develop strong guiding values to help them make healthy life choices.
  • Social Competencies: Young people need the skills to interact effectively with others, to make difficult decisions, and to cope with new situations.
  • Positive Identity: Young people need to believe in their own self-worth and to feel they have control over the things that happen to them.

Tips for building assets

Home/family: Regularly do things with your children.

Neighborhood/community: Learn the names of youth neighbors.

School/youth program: Plan asset-building activities as part of the curriculum/program.


Want to know more about the 40 Developmental Assets and ideas for helping young people build them? Visit www.search-institute.org/assets.


This article was written by Allison Heidorn, ASAP Project Assistant.

How are all the children?


Kasserian ingera?Is a traditional greeting of the Masai people of Kenya and Tanzania. Instead of saying “How are you?” they greet with “How are the children?” The typical response is, “Sapati ingera” (“All the children are well”). What would your response be? Perhaps some of the children are well? Is that good enough?

The question of why some kids have a fairly easy time growing up, while others struggle, why some get involved in dangerous activities, while others lead productive lives and why some beat the odds and others get trapped are usually answered by focusing on problems such as poor choices due to socioeconomic status, lack of supportive families, or being surrounded by bad influences. What if we decided to look for other answers –answers that would tell us how kids prevail, not fail.

The Search Institute in Minneapolis did just that when developing what are now called the 40 Developmental Assets. Their approach to answering the questions became upbeat, optimistic, hopeful, they highlighted what was right with youth. What they found was that assets protect and empower youth and their effects are cumulative. That means the more assets a youth has, the less likely they are to struggle and more likely they are to succeed in life.

The 40 Developmental Assets are grouped into two main types: External and Internal. The external assets are the good things youth need in their life and include: Support, Empowerment, Boundaries and Expectations, and Constructive Use of Time. They are the positive developmental experiences provided to all youth by communities including families, schools, neighborhoods, organizations, religious institutions, government, health care, law enforcement, civic groups, community foundations, businesses, and media. A strong community of caring adults—providing support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, and opportunities for enriching activities—helps young people develop skills they need to succeed.

Creating a strong foundation in a young person’s life doesn’t have to be difficult or overwhelming. Taking time, remaining patient, and giving a whole lot of love and caring will take you far. For most young people, their family is the center of their lives. Show your children you love them, and also value each one of them as individuals. Clearly communicate to one another your family’s values, boundaries, and expectations (as well as those of the community). Provide constructive, enriching opportunities for growth through creative activities, youth programs, and quality time at home. Give young people the appropriate amount of freedom to make their own decisions depending on their ages, but also offer options along the way.

The next time someone asks “How are you?” my hope is that you will think of the Masai’s traditional greeting “Kasserian ingera?- How are the children” instead. All may not be well with our children but it can get better. Change is possible, and the power rests in the people and places of community that join together to embrace, invest in, and engage with young people as resources and gifts. Perhaps someday we will be able to answer their greeting with “Sapati ingera – All the children are well.”


Want to know more about the 40 Developmental Assets and ideas for helping young people build them? Visit www.search-institute.org/assets.

Love and Support: The Family Foundation


Marge Kennedy once said, “In truth a family is what you make it. It is made strong, not by the number of heads counted at the dinner table, but by the rituals you help family members create, by the memories you share, by the commitment of time, caring, and love you show to one another, and by the hopes for the future you have as individuals and as a unit”.

The type of support Mrs. Kennedy speaks of is, for many, provided first by our family, and later by peers, teachers, and other adults. According to Search Institute, who listed Family Support as Asset #1 of the 40 Developmental Assets, there is a strong relationship between effective family support and positive childhood outcomes, particularly higher academic achievement, healthy peer relationships, effective family communication, positive behavioral adjustment, and better mental health.


There are many variations of family including biological, extended, foster families, guardians etc… Regardless of how people have come together, the word "family" implies warmth, a place where the feelings of the heart are nurtured, where security and support act as a buffer against external problems. Families grow and move through life together, inseparable in the heart.


The good news is that according to a national Search Institute survey, 64% of the youth surveyed felt they had Family Support in their lives. What about the other 36% of youth? How can parents/guardians make them feel loved and supported? The other piece of good news is it’s easy! Hug them or say, “I love you,” don’t assume they know how much you love them. Pay attention to them, listen to them, and take an interest in what they’re doing. Let your love for them show in the way you look at them, the words you say, your tone of voice, and your body language. Make it a point to be sure they hear your message of love and support loud and clear at all times. Develop openness so that the children in your family know that you’re available and you’ll love them—no matter what.

If Marge Kennedy was correct in her statement “A family is what you make it” than you as a parent/guardian have the influence to shape your child’s life. Youth are longing for the kinds of rituals, connections, memories, love and support only a family can provide.


Want to know more about the 40 Developmental Assets and ideas for helping young people build them? Visit www.search-institute.org/assets.

Positive Family Communication


Say it isn’t so…only 26 % of youth surveyed throughout the United States said they have Positive Family Communication, Support Asset #2 of the 40 Developmental Assets, the qualities, experiences, and relationships that help young people grow up healthy, caring and responsible. 74% of youth surveyed did not feel they could go to their parents/guardians for advice and support, did not have frequent in-depth conversations with their parents/guardians about a variety of topics –including serious issues and did not feel their parents/guardians were approachable and available when they wanted to talk.

The all too familiar conversation may look something like this: your child’s upset, you’re tired, and the conversation heats into an argument which ends when a door slams then silence. What if we were able to create an atmosphere of open communication within our homes – would the doors open instead of slam?


There are a variety of invisible closed doors all around us. Doors we build when we are preoccupied and don’t pay enough attention to our children, doors we create when we jump to conclusions before our child says anything, and doors we create when we criticize youth for what they tell us. With the building of each of these invisible doors youth begin to feel fearful of sharing or resentful of the reaction. Eventually youth back away from having conversations all together.


Real open door family communication means having an open mind, attitude and heart, listening to understand not to advocate your position, and being available when your children need you – and when they don’t. Though it can be challenging to develop the skills, being available for frequent, in-depth conversations is an important role we play in our children’s lives – from the time they learn to talk all the way into adulthood.


According to Dr. Daniel G. Bagboy, “When we communicate, we are telling others who we are, and we are asking others who they are.” Bagby suggests in conversations with your child reveal yourself by honestly telling them your thoughts, ideas, goals and feelings, jump in and begin the conversation-don’t wait for them to talk first, be responsible by taking control of your thoughts, feelings and actions, don’t blame or shame others for your behavior, take responsibility for your actions and be human by sharing your weaknesses in addition to your strengths to develop trust and closeness.


According to the Search Institute, this type of open door, Positive Family Communication, is essential for the healthy development of children and youth. So whether your home is one of the 26% who already has an open door or you are among the many who hear the door shut too many times, it is never too late to be intentional in turning the handle and walking into a new world of communication for yourself and your child.


Want to know more about the 40 Developmental Assets and ideas for helping young people build them? Visit www.search-institute.org/assets.

Other Adult Relationships


Stop! Take a moment to think back to your childhood. Can you name three or more adults (besides your parents) that you could go to for advice and support? Maybe it was a grandparent, a club leader, a neighbor, an aunt/uncle, a coach, a friend’s parents, a bus driver, someone in your congregation, or a teacher. What was it about those individuals that made you turn to them for advice, comfort and understanding? Perhaps they were trustworthy, listened to your stories, took an interest in what interested you, included you in conversations, laughed at your jokes, or helped you take a stand, then stood with you. Whatever it was that fostered that relationship, I am sure you can see the importance of their influence in your life.

As adults it is your turn to honor those special people who touched your heart and transformed your life by sharing the gift they gave you so many years ago. The beauty of this gift is it costs nothing, takes very little time or effort and yields truly amazing results. In recent years, Duke University compiled information regarding youth-adult relationships. Three interesting finding arose from their research. First, supportive relationships with non-parental adults create a protective barrier against risk behaviors such as alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drug use. Second, the longer the relationships lasts the more influential the adults seem to be in a young person’s life. Lastly, youth benefit from more than one caring adult.

According to Search Institute, the importance of Other Adult Relationships, Asset # 3 of the 40 Developmental Assets, cannot be overstated. This type of intergenerational, non-parental relationship was once natural in communities. Neighbors shared meals together, grandparents sat on porch swings and told stories of their lives, and friends sipped lemonade in their back yards while their children ran barefoot through a garden sprinkler. Today our lives seem to be on fast forward, times with family and friends never seem long enough, the connections we once knew are hurried and weak. If we are going to create the kind of connected and sustainable relationships all youth need to succeed we must become intentional in our efforts. Intentionally create an atmosphere where elders are allowed to become teachers, guides and mentors, learn the names of youth in your community, hire a young person to work for you, share your talents, send a card…most importantly be there as a rock in good times and bad.

The intentionality I speak of is clearly shown in a public service announcement that aired in Kansas. It is the story of a young boy who waited at the school bus stop in front of an elderly women’s house. Everyday, she stood at the front window of her home and watched as he got on the bus. She waved and smiled but the two never spoke. Somehow in their silent exchanges the boy felt safe knowing she was watching. The women and boy never had the chance to meet, but to this day, he can’t pass that house without thinking about the powerful, quiet influence that woman had in his life.

Have you looked out your window lately? Who is beyond the curtain hoping for the same security that little boy felt?

Want to know more about the 40 Developmental Assets and ideas for helping young people build them? Visit www.search-institute.org/assets.


This article was written by Allison Heidorn, ASAP Coalition Project Assistant.


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Caring Schools with the help of Parent Involvement


As Fall fades into winter we all begin to adjust to the climate in which we live.We pull out hats, mittens, and coats to protect ourselves from the elements. What adjustments do our children make as they adjust to the climate of their school environment? Would their forecast for their school be “warm” and inviting or “cold” and unwelcoming?


According to the Search Institute, a Caring School Climate – Asset #5, is the mood or atmosphere of a school. It is directly tied to the way young people feel about going to school and how well they learn.Several factors can promote a “warm school environment” but none are more important than how people within the school interact. On any given day your child will have many school interactions including; bus drivers, other students, the school secretary, counselor, teachers, coaches, cooks, custodians, parent volunteers and so on. When these individuals take the time to relate to young people in a positive, compassionate, and supportive way, schools become not only successful learning environments but they become places where youth look forward to being. If we are to create an atmosphere within our schools where we can promote learning, and keep students interested in and better able to reach their dreams than we must all join hands.


Parent’s hands are critical in creating a Caring School Climate. The Search Institute has identified, Parent Involvement in Schooling – Asset #6, as a necessary support all youth need in their lives. It appears that many parents are quite involved in the early educational years by attending concerts/events, hanging up artwork on the refrigerator, and spending time in their child’s classroom. As youth enter middle and high school the involvement seems to decrease perhaps because they are more independent. According to Search Institute this downward trend is substantial, 50% of 6th graders report having parent involvement in school as opposed to only 20% of 12th graders. Ironically this drop in involvement for middle school students occurs at a time, in some respects, that is most difficult time for young people. This does not mean you should go to school every day or even volunteer monthly as for many this is not possible due to work schedules. What it does mean is that it is important to know what is going on with your children’s education. Staying involved even in small way will make a big difference. Stay in contact with your child’s teacher via e-mail read the same book your child was assigned in English class; imagine the conversations you could have.


Youth hands greatly contribute to the creation of a Caring School Climate. By helping others feel cared about and supported, by learning the names of other students not in their social circle, by reaching out to students who may feel isolated or lonely, by being tolerant, by sticking up for students who are bullied by others, by respecting school property, by making an effort to get to know their teachers and by getting involved in positive school programs that promote asset building, youth can move a “warm front” into even the coldest of places.


As the season fades we may not be able to keep the snow from falling, the temperatures from diving or the ice from forming but we, as a community, have the power to create an even better climate in our schools. By intentionally creating positive interactions at all levels we can create “warm” and inviting schools where the forecast would be sunny, supportive, breezy, bully proof, low humidity, successful learning, and a respectful 70 degrees from August through June.


Want to know more about the 40 Developmental Assets and ideas for helping young people build them? Visit www.search-institute.org/assets.


This article was written by Allison Heidorn, ASAP Project Assistant.