Youth Take Action for Mainers in Recovery
Over this past July, the Maine Recovery Advocacy Project brought together a community to support each other, share their stories and learn how to make legislative waves of change regarding substance use and prevention in Maine. At the heart of it, all were youth leaders from Machias, Augusta, and Lewiston, Maine.
The Maine Recovery Advocacy Project (ME-RAP) is a grassroots network of people across Maine working to redefine and reimagine justice, access, connection, and recovery in Maine state laws, county policies, municipal ordinances, schools, workplaces, and daily lives.
With support and facilitation from MYAN staff, this organization spearheaded an entire week of activities, known as Youth Week of Action, which was planned with these young people, and many recovery community members throughout Maine!
Youth Week of Action was kicked off in Machias, where members gathered together at the Downeast Recovery Support Center to meet the film crew that would be documenting the Youth Week of Action, headed by videographer Alexandra Morrow.
The group circled up, introduced themselves, and shared bits about who they were, what community meant to them, and what to expect in the next coming days!
A few young people shared that they appreciated having others around them who liked to do fun things, who they could talk to, and who shared similar experiences. Many of them became friends through the Recovery Center!
Afterward, they took a walk to the local skate park and recreational area in Machias, which has the new addition of a basketball hoop. Youth leader Sam donated his basketball hoop to the park because he wanted his community to have more options for fun things to do outdoors!
The following day, the ME-RAP group took a State House tour with Senator Matt Pouliot! Sen. Pouliot held an open discussion with these young change-makers, where they were given the floor to share their experiences and learn how they can get involved in the legislative process to make a difference in their communities, especially in terms of substance use.
They went through the simulation process of creating their bill, offering their testimonies in support of or against it, bringing it to the floors of the House and Senate, and finally getting the Governor to sign their “bill,” where they had to chance to meet with Governor Janet Mills themselves.
The rest of the week was jam-packed with fun, camping, laughter, honesty, and space to just be.
Youth Week of Action came to a close at Governor Mills’ 4th annual Opioid Response Summit in Bangor. Many of these remarkable young people went to the summit with prepared testimonies that would be shared to a room filled with listening adults. MYAN staff was there to facilitate youth-led environments that gave the young people in attendance an opportunity to experience the summit while creating space for reflection.
Before sharing their personal accounts with an awaiting audience, the young participants took a moment to collect themselves outside. MYAN staff guided some community sessions and spent time preparing the youth members to film their experiences and participate in the youth-led pan
During the youth-led panel, young change-makers spoke their truth; they opened up about how substance use has personally impacted them and their families. They shared the struggles they saw their loved ones go through and the ways they helped and wanted to help the people in their lives whom they cared for – including ideas like expanding Narcan availability and extending training opportunities to young people. They brought with their testimonies a genuine and heartfelt look at how substance use and recovery impact communities.
Drug use and overdoses not only impact the individual user but also profoundly impact the families and communities of those struggling with addiction. A supportive and understanding community and reliable resources are essential in stemming substance use and paving a path toward recovery. This is where The Maine Recovery Advocacy Project comes in.
ME-RAP is committed to giving people in recovery, people who use drugs, family members, and recovery allies the organizing tools to think and act locally.
We collectively believe that young people have valuable insights into harm reduction & recovery work. These caucuses create opportunities to build youth skills, centering their perspectives in community dialogue. MYAN staff support adult skill building and training and technical assistance at the intersection of positive youth development and holistic prevention. We are grateful to be in partnership with ME-RAP, youth organizers, and their families.