"The Fund for a Healthy Maine is an investment in our future," declared Attorney General Steve Rowe, who started the rally before an energetic Hall of Flags crowd. Rowe was Speaker of the House when the Fund was created and is a strong supporter of the new health programs it pays for. Rowe expressed pride in the legislature's decision to create the Fund for a Healthy Maine, noting that it was also an opportunity to ensure the health of Maine's economy. "Good health is the backbone of a good economy," explained Rowe, "Healthy kids are better learners and an educated workforce is crucial to ensuring a healthy financial future for this state."
Maryann Christanson, a junior at Morse High School in Bath and an activist in the student anti-tobacco group, told the crowd, "I'm helping other students get the word out about Big Tobacco. It's so exciting to see our work paying off across the state as youth smoking rates have dropped by 36%." To the cheering crowd she added, "Let's keep working together to protect our health and our future." Five students from Piscataquis County's student anti-tobacco group also participated.
The Fund for a Healthy Maine created 31 community groups through the Partnership for a Tobacco Free Maine and most were present in the Statehouse on Tuesday, showcasing their efforts for their local legislators. And legislators were duly impressed. "This is an amazing collection of programs from every corner of our state", remarked Senate Majority Leader Patrick Colwell, "What they have accomplished in such a short period of time speaks to the importance of continuing to invest our tobacco settlement dollars in these new health programs." All of Piscataquis County's legislators visited the table of the Piscataquis Public Health Council, the community/school partnership for our region.
Edward Miller, CEO of the American Lung Association of Maine knows all too well what happens when enough money isn't allocated to local health programs. Miller summarized, "Although we have much to be happy about, our work has just begun. Without the Fund for a Healthy Maine, untreated preventable disease would take a much greater economic and physical toll. The Fund for a Healthy Maine is our best and only chance to break this unhealthy cycle of disease and its related health costs."
In 1998 Maine lawmakers used the tobacco settlement money to create the Fund for a Healthy Maine, a program that allocates funds in seven health-related program areas. Program areas include smoking cessation, substance abuse prevention and treatment, childcare, dental and oral health, school based health programs, prescription drugs for the elderly or disabled, and health care for kids and adults.
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