PARIS — Healthy Oxford Hills will host a community input meeting from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 11 at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School to discuss substance abuse and addiction with residents and figure out ways to address the issues with children at a younger age.
Jessica Abbott, the substance use prevention coordinator for Healthy Oxford Hills, said the idea for the community input meeting came about after Emily Eastman, the organization’s tobacco prevention coordinator, read the book, “The Seventh Wish” by Kate Messner on a recommendation from Oxford Elementary School teacher Melissa Guerrette.
“The Seventh Wish” follows, from a child’s point of view, a family dealing with substance abuse and addiction.
According to Abbott, Guerrette has written a teacher’s manual for the book for her students.
“After Emily read it, we tried figuring out what we could do to bring the lessons in this book into the area,” Abbott said.
She said the original plan was to “try and get (the book) into schools with fifth grade classes,” since it “ties into some of their curriculum.”
The idea evolved into hosting a community-wide input meeting where parents, students, professionals and other community members could gather to “have discussions” about substance abuse and addiction, “ask questions, and provide information and resources.”
“Our ultimate goal is to start some discussions with kids at a younger age,” Abbott said. “If nothing else, we want to get the conversation started on substance abuse, and addiction in general, whether it’s food, or games, or cell phones. Getting the conversation started at an age-appropriate level is important, so when they get older, they’re better equipped to deal with it.”
Abbott said that eventually, Healthy Oxford Hills wants to form a planning committee consisting of a variety of community members to continue discussing substance abuse and addiction and reducing the stigma surrounding them.
“Whether we bring this information to the schools, or just do it through the town libraries, we want to get the information out there to the different areas in the community,” Abbott said.