LGBTQ+ SupportME Official Launch!
The LGBTQ+ SupportME Network has launched a new website to increase awareness of Maine's LGBTQ+ youth communities. It provides educational resources, promotes allied organizations and pathways to connect LGBTQ+ youth to broader networks. It helps youth, adults and allies to feel empowered and supported.
The site features health promotion programs such as ‘This Free Life’, ‘Sidekicks’ and ‘Maine Youth Action Network’ that emphasize substance and tobacco use prevention as well as tools for building resiliency. Visitors will learn about crucial LGBTQ+ youth data, how it is gathered and utilized to design and implement evidence-based programs and helps to create a culturally informed prevention workforce and community.
The LGBTQ+ SupportME site offers resources to help LGBTQ+ youth connect to virtual support groups, find a health care provider, and learn about their rights as an individual and a student. Toolkits for parents, educators, and healthcare/prevention providers are provided as well as recommended literature. Original materials produced by the group are also available for visitors to use in their own projects.
“I am so excited about the announcement of and use by adult allies of the LGBTQ+ SupportME website,” shares Joanne Joy, Executive Director of Healthy Communities of the Capital Area and initial host and facilitator of the LGBTQ+ SupportME Network. “People working in prevention and others working to support LGBTQ+ youth in other ways have, for many years, known that lots of people want and need access to resources designed specifically for and by LGBTQ+ youth.”
The site is a step forward for LGBTQ+ youth in Maine, as gathering reliable data has been an uphill climb both state and nation-wide. Sexual orientation and gender identity questions were historically left out of national and state surveys creating gaps in information. Maine has been a leader in youth data collection, adding transgender identity to Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual identity questions in 2017 as part of the Maine Integrated Youth Survey (MIYHS). The LGBTQ+ high school students self-reported higher substance use rates than their peers and experiences of forced sexual contact and other traumatic events nearly three times as often as non-LGBTQ+ youth.
Over the last three years and with support from Maine Prevention Services and local substance use youth prevention coalitions the LGBTQ+ SupportME Network has evolved into a collaborative group of diverse public health professionals and compassionate organizations. Members meet virtually each month and welcome new members to increase inclusivity.
Healthy Communities of the Capital Area continues to serve as the home of the network and facilitates meetings as well as spearheads network initiatives. HCCA is home to Gardiner Area Thrives and the Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention coalitions, the Maine Farm to Institution and Maine Farm to School Networks, as well as local projects of Let's Go!, Tobacco Prevention, SNAP-Ed, and Youth Empowerment.
The LGBTQ+ SupportME Network hopes to inspire others to create more resources for LGBTQ+ youth throughout Maine.
Katelyn Malloy, MPH
Substance Use Prevention Specialist, Access Health
Joanne Joy, MA Executive Director, Healthy Communities of the Capital Area Email: firstname.lastname@example.org