GARDINER — Healthy Communities of the Capital Area is one of 16 nonprofits across the state of Maine to enter the second phase of the Healthy Community grant program. In April 2015, the organization was awarded $39,903 by the Maine Health Access Foundation, which is Maine’s largest, private, nonprofit health care foundation. The Healthy Community grant program, coordinated by MeHAF, strives to work with communities to improve the health of everyone in Maine in ways that reach beyond the delivery of direct health care services, according to a news release from the coalition.

Healthy Communities is a coalition of local people who work to improve the health and quality of life in Southern Kennebec County. The grant focuses on communities served by the coalition along the Kennebec River, including Augusta, Chelsea, Farmingdale, Gardiner, Hallowell, Pittston, Randolph and Richmond.

Earlier in the year, the organization and its partner organizations recognized substance abuse as the primary health concern in Southern Kennebec County. According to the 2014 State Epidemiological Profile, alcohol is the substance most often used by Mainers and the substance for which most seek treatment. The perceptions of harm regarding alcohol and marijuana among youth continue to be a challenge; over half of all high school students think that regular use of marijuana is not risky. Prescription drugs represent a serious public health concern for Maine, as prescription drug misuse continues to have a large impact on treatment, hospitalizations, and crime in Maine.

In the second phase, Healthy Communities will conduct a planning process that will identify and recruit stakeholders from multiple sectors, including schools, law enforcement, substance abuse programs, faith-based organizations and social services. Collaborative planning among stakeholders will create an implementation plan that will be put into action in the final phase of the grant program, beginning in October 2016, according to the release.

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