Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Population Health and Health Policy

Substance Abuse by Youth and Young Adults in Rural America

Abstract: 

Addressing substance abuse in rural America requires extending our understanding beyond urban-rural comparisons to how substance abuse varies across rural communities of different sizes. The authors address this gap by examining substance abuse prevalence across 4 geographic levels, focusing on youth (age 12-17 years) and young adults (age 18-25 years).

 

Findings: Rural youth have higher alcohol use and methamphetamine use than urban youth and the more rural the area, the higher the use. Rural young adults living in rural-large areas have higher rates of substance abuse than their urban peers; those living in the most rural areas have nearly twice the rate of methamphetamine use as urban young adults. Rural youth are more likely than urban youth to have engaged in the high-risk behavior of driving under the influence of alcohol or other illicit drugs.

 

Conclusions: Higher prevalence rates, coupled with high-risk behavior, place rural youth and young adults at risk of continued substance use and problems associated with this use. Rural community infrastructure should be enhanced to support substance abuse prevention and intervention for these populations.

Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Publish Date: 
June 1, 2008

Cutler Institute awarded $600,000 to help youth raised in foster system

Marty Zanghi

USM's Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy has been awarded a $600,000 grant to help young people raised in Maine's foster system to prepare for college and the workforce.

The money comes from the Annie E. Casey Foundation as part of a $5.4 million national effort aimed at youth who are homeless or in either the foster care or juvenile justice systems.

"Many of these young people have suffered abuse or trauma and were raised in poverty and neglect," said Marty Zanghi, the Cutler Center's youth development director.

The money -- including an expected $400,000 more in matching funds -- will pay for contracted work with agencies in the target areas, starting with the greater Portland area and Penobscot, Kennebec and Somerset counties.

Nationally and in Maine, only about 3 percent of people who grow up in the foster care system achieve a college degree, he said.

"It's dramatically lower than the rate for the general population," Zanghi said. "It's a horrible outcome."

It doesn't have to be that way, though.

"There are young people that overcome these circumstances," he said. "I know people who have master's degrees and Ph.Ds."

The Casey Foundation's national effort is being called the "Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential" (LEAP) initiative.

The initiative is working on partnerships in Maine and nine other areas: Alaska, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and New York. In each case, people will adapt two evidence-based models to meet the needs of these youth, including support to address the trauma they may have experienced in their lives.

In Maine, the work will include a pair of successful programs, Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG) and Jobs for the Future. Results will be carefully tracked, Zanghi said.

After the first year, the program is expected to grow.

"Eventually, the additional help will be available to all children, 14 and over, in the foster care system in the state of Maine," Zanghi said.

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