Maine receives underage drinking laws enforcement grant

AUGUSTA — The Office of Substance Abuse, Department of Health and Human Services, recently received a $799,545 grant that targets enforcement of underage drinking laws. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention awarded the grant.

Funds will be used to assess both state and local underage drinking issues in the first year of the three-year grant. In years two and three, a strategic plan will be developed and followed to address the issues identified by the assessment. An OJJDP-sponsored independent assessment team will support the assessment. The grant period begins Oct. 1.

“Underage drinking is a serious public health issue in the state of Maine” said Guy Cousins, Director of the Office of Substance Abuse, Department of Health and Human Services. “OSA is committed to improving the system by building partnerships to prevent underage drinking statewide and to enforce the current laws.”

Study shows parents underestimate teen alcohol use and abuse

AUGUSTA — A newly released survey shows that many Maine parents of high school students appear to underestimate their teen’s use of alcohol, including the amount they drink.

The Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey that was recently released and a concurrent parent phone survey show a large gap between what parents believe about their teen’s alcohol use and what teens report.

The Maine Office of Substance Abuse is joining forces with local coalitions to raise parental awareness about the realities of underage drinking and to provide them with back to school tips and tools to help keep their kids safe.

In the statewide phone survey of Maine parents, only 26 percent believed their high school age child had ever had more than a few sips of alcohol. Less than 2 percent believed their child had engaged in binge drinking.

According to the recently released MIYHS results, 65 percent of Maine high school teens said they have had at least one alcoholic drink and more than 20 percent say they have had more than five drinks in a row, defined as binge drinking. OSA, an Office of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, aims to inform parents of the extent of teen alcohol use.

“With students back in school, it is a good time to remind parents that all Maine youth are at risk for underage alcohol use,” says Guy Cousins, Director of Maine OSA.

OSA offers five simple, time-proven tips for preventing teen alcohol use through increased parental monitoring:

1. Limit your teen’s access to alcohol. Keep track of what and how much you have in your home, and keep it where it’s not accessible to teens.

2. Network with other parents. Get to know your teen’s friends and their parents and let them know where you stand on underage alcohol use.

3. Enforce your rules consistently. Make sure your teen understands your rules and the consequences if they are broken.

4. Check in often with your teen. Be sure you know how to reach them. Ask them where they’re going, if anyone will have alcohol and if adults will be present.

5. Be up and ready when your teen comes home. Ask them about their night and be prepared for what you will say or do if you discover they’ve been drinking.

Research shows that parental monitoring is critical in preventing underage alcohol use. In fact, high school students who don’t believe they would be caught by their parents are three times as likely to drink alcohol.

For more detailed tips and information about how to prevent underage drinking, visit www.mainparents.net or contact OSA toll free at 1-800-499-0027.

Governor names acting DEP Commissioner

AUGUSTA — On Sept. 7 Gov. John E. Baldacci announced the appointment of Beth Nagusky as Acting Commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

“Beth has extensive experience working on issues vital to preserving Maine’s unique quality of place while helping Maine people and businesses use energy more efficiently. She has led efforts to provide incentives to businesses, to promote conservation and has worked to expand renewable energy,” said Baldacci. “I am confident that Beth will continue to bring strong leadership and engage stakeholders to ensure a cleaner, healthier environment for Maine people.”

Nagusky has been serving as Director of the Office of Innovation and Assistance at the Department of Environmental Protection since May 2008. In this position, she has been working with businesses to promote sustainable practices. She was co-chair of the Ocean Energy Task Force, which made recommendations that were passed by the Maine Legislature to improve and update Maine laws to more fully realize the potential of harnessing Maine’s renewable resources.

Nagusky served as the first director of the Governor’s Office of Energy Independence and Security under Baldacci. Nagusky was instrumental in making Maine government a model of energy efficiency and practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Under her leadership, Operation Keep ME Warm to weatherize Maine homes began as well as a series of public information campaigns on ways to conserve energy.

Nagusky has served as Director of the Independent Energy Producers of Maine (1997 – 2003), as a Staff Attorney at the Natural Resources Council of Maine (1987 – 1995) and as Staff Attorney at the Maine Public Utilities Commission (1983 – 1987). She earned a bachelors degree from the University of Michigan and law degree from Case Western Reserve Law School.

Nagusky replaces David Littell, who will be sworn in as a Commissioner for the Maine Public Utilities Commission on Sept. 8.

Beef recall

AUGUSTA — The Maine Department of Agriculture and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention want to remind consumers to check their freezers for products involved in the ground beef recall that was issued by USDA, due to possible Escherichia coli O26 contamination.

The ground beef, distributed by Cargill Meat Solutions Corp., of Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, was sold at BJ’s Wholesale Club stores in Maine.

The product subject to recall includes 42-pound cases of “GROUND BEEF FINE 90/10,” containing three (3) approximately 14-pound chubs each. These products have a “use/freeze by” date of “07/01/10,” and an identifying product code of “W69032.” [View Label]

Details, suppliers, and product codes for the recall can be found at:

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&_Events/Recall_050_2010_Release/index.asp

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/RC_050_2010_Retail_List.pdf

The Maine CDC has identified two adults with a matching strain of E. coli O26. The date of onset of illness for the two patients was July 8 and July 16. Patients resided in Androscoggin and Oxford counties. Both patients prepared and consumed ground beef. One patient in New York State also matches this strain of E. coli O26. The patient in New York State also had exposure to ground beef.

E. coli O26 is a bacterium that can cause illness resulting in diarrhea and abdominal cramps. The illness can also cause severe kidney complications. The very young, elderly, and persons with weak immune systems are more susceptible to illness.

The Maine Department of Agriculture and Maine CDC advise all consumers to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only consume ground beef that has been cooked to an internal temperature of 160° F. The only way to confirm that ground beef is cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer that measures internal temperature.

Individuals with the recalled ground beef products should discard the product or return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Individuals who have eaten the product and are currently ill with diarrhea should consult with their health care provider.

For more information please contact the Maine Department of Agriculture, 287-3841, or the Division of Infectious Disease at the Maine CDC at 800-821-5821.

Education commissioner applauds job funds

AUGUSTA — Education Commissioner Angela Faherty issued the following statement Sept. 3 following the announcement by the U.S. Department of Education that Maine’s application for $39 million in federal education jobs funds was approved:

“This is great news for Maine. It means we will be able to retain, rehire, or hire more teachers and other school-level educators and other staff and preserve and enhance programming for Maine students at a time of challenging finances.

“Maine was one of the first states to submit its application for the funds and to be approved. The U.S. Department of Education has pledged to release funds quickly. The Maine Department of Education has already posted the necessary paperwork for districts and received more than a dozen requests from school districts, and already approved most of them. We will be prepared to make funds available to school districts in a timely fashion.”