Friday, January 19, 2024

New director settles into leadership role for BTI

By Kaysa Jalbert

Windham’s Be The Influence Coalition has welcomed a new Director, Patrice Leary-Forrey, to the team as it enters year eight of a 10-year grant awarded by the Drug Free Communities to help prevent youth substance abuse in the towns of Windham and Raymond.

Patrice Leary-Forrey is the new director
of the Be The Influence Coalition. She
will lead BTI initiatives in Windham and
Raymond to help deter substance abuse
by youth in the community.
“It’s been amazing so far,” says Leary-Forrey. “The community has been so welcoming and responsive to the program over the years. We have a great leadership team, and I am excited to work with everyone.”

Leary-Forrey says she has been working with other members of the leadership program to carry out on-going initiatives by the coalition in efforts to raise more awareness about substance abuse to the community’s youth, however the new director has some ideas of her own to implement as well.

“I would like to hone-in on prevention of protecting kids from access to substances,” she said. “A new initiative would be to offer lock boxes for families during the Drug Take Back Days that the public safety hosts.”

Drug Take Back Day, according to the official DEA website, encourages the public to remove unneeded medications from their homes as a measure of preventing medication misuse and opioid addiction. It also acts as a reminder to keep medications out of reach of children and locked away.

The lock box initiative would allow parents, grandparents, and guardians to keep personal products and medications locked and secure out of the hands of toddlers and teenagers.

“I'm going to be working hopefully with poison control and Maine CDC to help support that initiative and bring that opportunity to families,” says Leary-Forrey.

Until then, Leary-Forrey plans to focus on executing projects that are already in the works alongside her leadership team. Along with Crystal Aldrich, the Project Coordinator for BTI, they are working together on a youth mattering initiative with the Maine Resiliency Building Network, a program that focuses on community involvement in promoting mental health and well-being amongst young people.

Another plan includes a sequel event to the Jammin’ for Mental Health through the Arts event that was held in May 2023. Be The Influence organizes this event annually with community partners Maine Behavioral Healthcare and RSU 14.

BTI and partners have been hosting a series of “Arts of Prevention” events for years using different forms of art such as painting, music, film, and theater to help the youth express themselves and find healthy coping outlets.

“We will be there hosting other not-for-profits and Maine Health and we will be providing information and support to the families who might need resources in the community,” said Leary-Forrey.

The new director is now in week four of her BTI leadership role and has been keeping busy handling grant requirements, meeting folks in the community, and attending meetings. This week’s mission is to attend club meetings such as Youth Leadership at Windham High School as a means to meet the students and explore ways to support them in their everyday activities at school and to provide prevention education regarding substance use and advice about how to make good choices for themselves.

Leary-Forrey said she hopes to soon meet with the health teachers at Windham High School to bring in some evidence-based programming education into the health classes.

“I am so excited to meet the kids and to work with them and support them in their initiatives,” she said.

Prior to this new role, Leary-Forrey worked as a director for a nonprofit in York County for prevention of child abuse and neglect. She explains it was similar work just with a different focus but also required supporting parents and kids in schools.

According to Leary-Forrey, Be The Influence community coalition meetings will be held on the second Tuesday of the month at 10 a.m. in the training room at the Windham Public Safety building. It is open to the public to hear updates from the community and what BTI is currently working on.

Leary-Forrey grew up in a small rural town in Southern New Hampshire in the Monadnock Region called Fitzwilliam.

“It was a great place to grow up and shares many similarities to Southern Maine,” she says.

She attended high school at Gould Academy and later pursued her undergraduate degree in Psychology and English at New England College. Afterward, Leary-Forrey moved to California to study at Pepperdine University before transferring to Argosy University in Chicago where she obtained a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology.

Now, she is a mother of four daughters who are living in Charlotte, North Carolina; Montreal, Canada; and Paris, France. In her free time, Leary-Forrey says she enjoys lots of outdoor activities and sports, watercolor painting, vegetable gardening in the summer and listening to a variety of music and podcasts. <

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