According to the 2014 Maine Cancer Surveillance Report, tobacco use (including cigarettes, cigars, flavored cigars, chewing tobacco and snuff) is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. With your generous support, MCF strives to help prevent countless tobacco-related cancer diagnoses across Maine.
Since 2015, Maine Cancer Foundation has awarded $1,376,380 to tobacco prevention and cessation projects statewide. Curious about the tobacco cessation and prevention services your donations provide? Here are two of our current grantees:
Peer-Led Tobacco Cessation Training at Unlimited Solutions Clubhouse
Clubhouse International is a multi-national non-profit organization with over 300 community-based centers that create sustainable solutions for people with mental illness. Unlimited Solutions Clubhouse, located in Bangor, opened their doors in October, 2012. The intentional community “improves the quality of life for individuals who experience mental illness by providing social, vocational, and educational opportunities.” In 2016, Unlimited Solutions Clubhouse received a Maine Cancer Foundation tobacco cessation grant to develop a peer-led program for Clubhouse members who want to quit using tobacco products.
People with mental illness die significantly earlier than the general population and most deaths are caused by preventable diseases. Carrie Lemos, Executive Director of Unlimited Solutions, acknowledges the history of smoking among those with a mental health diagnosis: “In the 1970’s and 1980’s, when people used to get help in psychiatric hospitals, cigarettes were a reward,” she said. “Some research also shows symptoms of schizophrenia can be lessened by nicotine.”
With funding from MCF they implemented a new program, Sidekicks: Quitting Tobacco Side by Side, which utilizes six hour-long training modules for peers interested in helping Clubhouse members quit tobacco. “The ultimate goal of the program is to have less people smoking,” said Carrie. Trained peers will help members develop quit plans and consider additional support on a case-by-case basis.
Peers will also offer resources from existing services including the Maine Tobacco Helpline. “Sometimes all it takes is occupying a person for a few minutes until the craving has passed,” shared Carrie. Once the quit plan is established, peers will refine what’s working to help members maintain their tobacco abstinence. “We’re thrilled Maine Cancer Foundation’s grant is allowing us to develop these workshops,” said Carrie. “We’re training people so tobacco cessation will trickle down to everybody at the Clubhouse so if you’re interested in quitting there will be support and great resources waiting.”
Tobacco Free Franklin
In December 2016, Maine Cancer Foundation awarded Healthy Community Coalition’s Tobacco Free Franklin program $199,976 over two years. The grant supports outreach strategies in Franklin County – including a mobile health unit that travels throughout the area – along with events at local businesses and worksites. “Our community is very rural and the people of Franklin County are losing jobs; the paper mill just did a big shutdown, and all the other factories have slowly closed,” said Janis. “The jobs that are available pay minimum wage, so people work many jobs, which adds stress, and subsequently more need for stress relief in the form of tobacco use.”
Many Franklin County residents rely on Tobacco Free Franklin’s mobile health unit – equipped with two exam rooms -- to meet their health care needs. “People don’t have the financial needs to make it to our offices in Farmington,” said Janis. “These are folks who go grocery shopping once a month.” Over the summer, the unit goes everywhere in Franklin County, including festivals and fairs, to reach as many people as possible. “We see thousands of people this way. As you can imagine, some people come by and blow smoke from their cigarettes right at us, while others look down and don’t give us a second look,” Janis shared.
Tobacco Free Franklin has trained staff to support community members who want to quit. Each person makes their own individual plans, and the specialists offer individualized support.”We work with folks to find out what their triggers are. Some people want a cigarette when they first wake up while others enjoy them right after a meal.”
The favorite part of Janis’ work in tobacco prevention is being able to support members of her community on the long road to recovery. “I want to give them a sense of hope – they really can do this,” she shared. “Maine Cancer Foundation’s funding is critical for cancer prevention and early detection in our community. Without it we can’t reach the people that need us most.”