Town manager points to poverty and drugs as problems holding back Waldoboro

By Beth A. Birmingham | Oct 12, 2018
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Town Manager Julie Keizer, right, talks about the need for a serious conversation on poverty and drugs as they affect the town of Waldoboro at the Oct. 9 Board of Selectmen's meeting. Also shown is Chairman Robert Butler.

Waldoboro — "I want to make a difference," Town Manager Julie Keizer said about the growing poverty and drug crisis in Waldoboro.

Keizer started the conversation at the Oct. 9 Board of Selectmen's meeting, saying, "I may go from hero to zero here, but ..." -- and recommended looking into the programs the Central Lincoln County YMCA and Healthy Lincoln County offer as resources.

Her preface stems from the town's disappointment with the CLC Y's decision to terminate its lease agreement with the town for the former AD Gray School back in May 2015.

Keizer said she recently had a meeting with the director of the YMCA, and recommended having a serious conversation about some of the social programs it offers.

"We can hide our heads in the sand, but I'm going to tell you right now ... there is nothing I lay awake at night about except poverty and drugs," she said.

She explained the town can have all the fiber-optic cable it wants flowing through the area, but that is not going to solve the poverty and drug issues.

"That is going to make for better schools, it's going to want to make people come here ... that's what we need to fix," she said, "and if the YMCA has programs that can help us do that, partnered with Lincoln Health, that's what we need to do."

Keizer said she is passionate about this issue, and explained the Medomak River and other things the town is working on are economic drivers.

"We need to let go of the things that have held us back in the past -- the failure of the YMCA ... some of that is on us," she said.

"This is something that could be good for us, and we need to have open minds and need to explore it, because if we partner with the right partners we can fix it," Keizer said.

Kate Marone, director of health at Healthy Lincoln County, had made a presentation to the board at its Sept. 25 meeting, discussing the results of a recent survey of substance use it conducts in high schools and middle schools every other year.

The Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey is administered every other February, most recently in February 2017. All four high schools in Lincoln County participate, and seven of the eight middle school grades.

At the same time the students are surveyed, the HLC office does a telephone survey of approximately 400 parents of students in those grades. HLC also interviews law enforcement personnel and health care workers in the schools.

Marone said Miller School (in Waldoboro) students were asked to take photographs of factors in their life that either contribute to or discourage them from using drugs or alcohol, tell what the photos meant to them, and put captions on them.

The most recent survey is the first one in which more students said they were using marijuana than alcohol. In fact, 22 percent reported they used marijuana regularly, compared to 19 percent who use alcohol regularly.

The report stated that as of last year, persons must be 21 to use tobacco legally; however, more students now report using e-cigarettes than use traditional tobacco products. The opioid crisis mainly affects people 18 years and older. Use of heroin and prescription opioids doesn’t generally start in high school, she said.

"Very few students surveyed feel that marijuana use is detrimental to health at their age," Marone said.

Alcohol use was deemed harmful by 57 percent, tobacco by 86 percent, and prescription drugs by 86 percent of respondents. More than half said it is easy for them to get alcohol, marijuana and tobacco products from a store, family member or friend. Fewer students said they could easily get prescription drugs for recreational use.

Marone said age of initiation is important.

"The human brain is not fully developed until the mid-20s," she explained. "Younger brains exposed to addictive substances develop stronger addictions. If people have not started smoking by age 20 to 25, they are less likely to start."

Twenty-seven percent of students who have tried alcohol did so before the age of 13, as did 33 percent of those who have tried marijuana.

"Exposure to addictive substances affects the learning capacity of the adolescent brain," she said.

The study assesses factors contributing to student use of addictive substances, which include domestic violence, depression, and having experienced three or more adverse childhood experiences.

Marone explained that protective factors that tend to discourage unhealthy behavior include having a family that gives them love and support, and feeling that they matter in their community.

Six out of 10 students feel they are getting the support they need from their school and community, but four out of 10 do not.

"We need to try to do something about this," Marone said.

She noted that the local sheriff’s offices do retail checks annually, finding violations in eight to 10 percent of the checks, where clerks or wait staff are providing prohibited substances to minors.

Marone suggested businesses be required to provide regular staff training to help prevent such instances, and recommended parents secure addictive drugs and alcohol in the home.

She said HLC can provide free locking bags in which to secure prescription drugs.

"It keeps me awake at night," Keizer reiterated at the Oct. 9 meeting, noting she wants to work with other programs and resources to create a solid base.

"I think we need to continue this discussion," Keizer said, getting full support from the board to investigate the possibilities further.

(Some of the information contained above was taken from approved meeting minutes from the Sept. 25 meeting.)

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@villagesoup.com.

Conversation starter: poverty and drugs
(Video by: Beth A. Birmingam and Tyler Southard)
Comments (1)
Posted by: Debra Damon | Oct 14, 2018 08:19

Julie Keizer I think what you are trying to do is Awesome. I wish more towns and the people within them would look at the poverty and drug problem, instead of hiding their heads behind closed doors. We need more programs for the young people to do, we need to teach young Adults how to simple things like how to weld, how to become a bookkeeper, how to work for contractors, whether it's building, earthwork, paving, plumbing, electrical, etc, how to work as a sternman, at a wharf, etc. Maybe some people think these are simple tasks but they aren't to those less fortunate that lived in poverty, alcoholic family, drug abuse family and an abusive home. Those that lived that life are ashamed to say "I don't know how to do that" or to ask for help. Some of the young adults that are growing up were born drug addicted or have alcohol fetal syndrome. Maybe some people will say "Oh that's just an excuse!" It isn't an excuse, their brains were damaged when they were born to these parents. Now it's time for every community in Maine to come together and make a difference to these young people. Keep up the good work Manager Keizer you are traveling down the right road in thinking. Good Luck and may God be looking over the future you are trying to plan.

 



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