An Alternative Pathways student in the Biddeford school system snapped this image of a long hallway – leading to light at the end of the tunnel, as part of a Photo Voices class by Coastal Healthy Communities Coalition. Courtesy Photo/CHCC

BIDDEFORD — Identifying red flags that might signify a young person is more susceptible to drug or alcohol use isn’t always easy.

A program designed to help young people learn to reduce their risks of alcohol-and drug-related problems throughout their lifetime, along with another addressing perceptions of  a community and what’s good about and what might need attention, in particular when it comes to substance use are being rolled out by the Coastal Healthy Communities Coalition. The coalition serves Biddeford, Saco, Arundel, the Kennebunks, Old Orchard Beach and the inland towns of Dayton, Hollis and Buxton.

Prime for Life is designed to change drinking and drug use behavior by changing beliefs, attitudes, risk perceptions, motivations, and providing  knowledge of how to reduce risk of alcohol- and drug-related problems for young people throughout their lives, said Tricia Cote, program director of the coalition. The six-hour curriculum takes place over six weeks, and is typically conducted in the school classroom — though Cote said a fall class could potentially be held outside.

While the target age for Prime for Life is 12 to 24, parents can also take part, she said.

Some schools which have presented the program focus on young people who have had substance abuse issues and it has also been used as a part of a restorative justice program — but it also can be used widely, to help students see what could trigger a dive into addiction.

This image of a young person walking along a slushy roadway was captured by a Kennebunk High School alternative education student for a program called Photo Voice offered by Coastal Healthy Communities Coalition. Courtesy Photo/CHCC

Cote said those who take part would be able to identify red flags, and know when to step back. The classes would discuss personality traits that make someone more prone to addiction — like gregarious people who like the thrill of a crowded bar and get so immersed in a situation they forget how much they’re drinking. As a result, tolerance levels tend to increase, leading to increased drinking, she pointed out.

The second program is Photo Voice, which Cote said she hopes will be back in the schools in the fall. Photo Voice promotes photography for positive social change while capturing the conditions in the community through the eyes of youth, she said.

With Photo Voice, participants are asked to take pictures that they think highlight positive aspects about their community and issues they feel need to be addressed. Students then tell a story about their pictures, detailing what is happening, how the pictures relate to the participants’ lives and how the images can be used to educate people in the community, said Cote.

In one recent photo, a student in Kennebunk High School’s alternative education program snapped an image of someone walking along on the side of a slushy roadway.

“This picture is significant because it shows the distance people put between themselves and people who are addicted,” the caption reads. “Just because you are walking alone, doesn’t mean you will be around the corner.”

Another photo, by a student at Biddeford’s Alternative Pathways program, shows light pouring through a window at the end of a hallway.

“I think this picture is about the light at the end of the tunnel,” one unidentified commenter said. “I know we all go through stuff here; I think that’s what APC offers us — we can see there’s light in all the bad things.”

Cote said pre-COVID photographs were displayed at a gallery event. Today, the photos are posted on social media.

“We review the photos and talk about them,” Cote said. “It’s a great way a great way for the kids to let their voice be heard in the community.”

For more information or for those interested in having Coastal Healthy Communities Coalition host a class, email Cote at [email protected] or call 802-272-4896.

Comments are not available on this story.