MACHIAS, Maine — Despite a messy spring snowstorm, the first University of Maine at Machias Community Health Fair was deemed a rousing success Tuesday.
More than 22 vendors, businesses and service providers offered information, tips and options for personal well-being, ranging from dental care to healthful food choices, bullying, Lyme disease, weight loss, birth control, depression, domestic violence and veterans services.
“This is really an awareness thing,” said Jennie Hare of the UMM Student Wellness Committee. “This is a good opportunity for the community and the students to learn. Some people had no idea that some of these resources are available locally.”
But even as some providers handed out brochures and appointment information, others were expecting their funding to be drastically cut in state budget proposals.
Downeast Health Services provides women’s health examinations, birth control advice, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, menopausal support — all on a sliding scale. Offices exist in Ellsworth, Machias and Calais.
But with a proposal being considered by the Legislature to cut more than $700,000 from the Family Planning Association of Maine, which in turn funds Downeast Health Services, DHS would be forced to cut many Washington County services.
“We would have to cut the Calais office completely,” said Shasta Newenham, family planning educator. “We would also have to cut services we now provide to Harrington Health Care and the Milbridge Medical Center.
“We will, however, continue to provide as much as we can,” Newenham said. “Washington County is a population that is in desperate need of access to birth control and reproductive health services.”
Newenham said if DHS services to Washington County are cut, the very population it serves will grow.
“Look around this room, all of these agencies, all of these safety nets, will have gaping holes in the face of the proposed budget cuts,” she said.
Suzanne Mace, coordinator of health services at UMM, agreed with Newenham that Washington County resources are limited at best.
The Lifelong Learning Center at UMM is a perfect example of community and university collaboration. The center includes a gymnasium, a full weight and training room, and a pool that allows open membership to Washington County residents for training, weight loss and lifelong fitness. Personal trainers are available, as are other classes such as yoga, Zumba and weightlifting.
“With proposed cuts, it is more important than ever that UMM steps up and takes a role in community wellness,” she said. “UMM wants to be on the forefront and partner with the community.”