SCARBOROUGH — The Maine Department of Health and Human Services will streamline substance abuse services and parenting education in a pilot program offered in Scarborough and a handful of other places around the state. 

The Maine Enhanced Parenting Project was introduced in April and is designed to offer support in one location to all members of an at-risk family, but particularly children. 

Crossroads, the Scarborough-based behavioral health and addiction treatment center, will provide services for the new program in Scarborough and Kennebunk.

Besides Scarborough and Kennebunk, the program is available in Machias, Bangor, Ellsworth and Houlton.

The federally subsidized program is administered through the Maine Office of Child and Family Services. MEPP allows states to “use innovative approaches to preemptively stop child abuse and neglect,” Samantha Edwards, manager of media relations for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, said Wednesday afternoon. 

In an Aug. 10 press release, DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew said the program represents an “obligation to support innovative programs designed to improve long-term outcomes for children in child welfare and their parents.”

More than half of all child abuse victims in the last two years “had a family risk factor or drug or alcohol misuse,” OCFS Director Jim Martin said. 

At least 60 percent of children who receive protective custody services from the state are in the program because of a risk factor brought on by substance abuse by at least one parent, according to Mayhew. 

Of the 60 percent, it’s expected that approximately 12 percent will be served through this program annually, Edwards said.

“We cannot deny what research tells us: if we do not get at the heart of the issue, these children could face negative outcomes,” Mayhew said, including “poor social and emotional development, along with depression and even substance abuse issues of their own.”

MEPP, created by the Maine Office of Child and Family Services, pairs a four-part, 16-week intensive pilot treatment program that combines group treatment for parents through a Matrix Model Intensive Outpatient Program, and the Positive Parenting Program to support children.

Families eligible for the dual treatment program should have one or more parents in need of Intensive Outpatient Services and at least one child who is 5 years old or younger.

“If we are not teaching effective parenting and helping families learn how to work together, then we are not preventing the next wave of the problem,” Martin said.  

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or [email protected]. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA.

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