Most of the funding that Casco Bay Create Awareness Now uses to combat youth substance abuse in Freeport and elsewhere in Cumberland County comes from the federal Drug-Free Communities Support Program. And more is due – Casco Bay CAN has been awarded a $625,000, five-year grant by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Casco Bay CAN, which has two employees and an office at the Freeport Community Center, serves Cumberland, Falmouth, Yarmouth, Gray, New Gloucester, Pownal and North Yarmouth, in addition to Freeport.

Phyllis Latham, chairman of the board and a guidance counselor at Freeport Middle School with 26 years in the education field, said that the grant is written so that the agency can work directly with parents on protecting their children from harmful drugs. Community representatives, including school officials, the faith community, police, parents, youth representatives and others, make up Casco Bay CAN. The grant money goes to pay for health-care professionals and police to conduct substance-abuse programs. The funding also pays for packets of materials, books and videos used in presentations.

“It’s more for education of the parents,” Latham said. “We do a lot as far as offering information on how to talk to your teen or pre-teens about substance abuse. And we have guest speakers.”

Latham said that prescription drug use and access to medical marijuana used by parents are relatively new problems at the middle-school level.

“Before it might have been tobacco or alcohol,” she said.

The agency urges parents to keep both their prescription drugs and their medical marijuana secured and away from their children, she said.

“The recommendations are that it’s locked up, but that doesn’t always happen,” Latham said. “We want to make parents aware about what their children might find at a friend’s house.”

Casco Bay CAN also educates parents on the negative effects marijuana can have on a young person’s brain function.

“The evidence is huge,” she said.

Beth Blakeman-Pohl, program director at Casco Bay CAN, said that the agency is steadfast in its mission.

“We meet on a monthly basis and look at things,” Blakeman-Pohl said. “We’re doing everything as a collaboration.”

School officials, including coaches, use the material to talk to students, as do health-care providers. Parents receive tips on ways to bring up the delicate subject of substance abuse to their children – at a younger and younger age.

“What we’ve realized,” Blakeman-Pohl said, “is that we need to go to the elementary school level.”

The White House Drug Policy Office grant also pays for law-enforcement officials to be on party patrol. Police use tips from an anonymous tip line, which is texted as 274637 ucantip. People who want to alert others to an ongoing party or parties in the making also can go to the Casco Bay CAN website,

“We work to promote a safe and healthy environment for our youth,” Blakeman-Pohl said. “Prevention is a powerful tool to counteract drug use in our community, and we will use this funding to help youth make healthy choices about substance use.”

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