Maine’s 3rd Annual Opioid Response Summit Highlights Maine DOE’s Commitment to SEL in Schools

Governor Janet T. Mills’ 3rd Annual Opioid Response Summit was on held on July 15th this year and reminded the public of the importance of social emotional learning and trauma informed approaches in Maine schools, highlighting the work of the Maine Department of Education’s development of SEL4ME, a social emotional learning (SEL) platform for Maine educators and learners.

The summit featured numerous speakers and keynote addresses including those of Dr. Larry McCullough and Mark Lefebvre from the Pine Tree Institute who led a seminar called, “Preventing Substance Use Disorders by Mitigating Adverse Childhood Experiences.” This discussion showed the strong link between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and opioid addiction.

Dr. McCullough highlighted the importance of positive childhood experiences to combat the correlation between ACEs and opioid addiction. Further explaining that positive childhood experiences can be created for at-risk youth through feeling a sense of belonging in high school, having nonparent adults as role models for students, and community traditions. The seminar dug into the essential parts of community support, including a key component as social emotional and trauma informed learning, which has been shown to strongly correlate with less youth involvement in drugs.

Representatives Gabe O’Brien and Nina Misra from the Maine Youth Action Network corroborated Dr. McCullough’s presentation with their own, entitled: “Promoting Health Equity and Prevention through Youth Engagement Best Practices.” O’Brien and Misra focused on community and environmental conditions. Community conditions Misra defined as, “conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age.” Educational environments in which social emotional learning occurs within the classroom were encouraged as a best practice. Misra and O’Brien described a classroom that utilizes SEL as, “creating a space where young people feel seen and heard.”

Social emotional learning has been a priority for the Maine Department of Education, championed through the SEL4ME curriculum. SEL4ME strives for students to learn, “skills for self-confidence, perseverance and academic success as well as [become] positive members in their communities.”

The Annual Opioid Response Summit confirmed the importance of Maine DOE’s commitment to SEL as a critical role in mitigating the crisis. Dr. Jessica Pollard, Director of the Maine Office of Behavioral Health stated at the summit that newly approved funds entering into the DOE for opioid crisis work (much of it heading towards SEL professional development and training) will mean “fewer Maine youth will ever start misusing substances.”

To watch the entirety of the Summit, please click here. For more information about the Maine DOE SEL4ME platform visit: or contact Kellie Bailey, Social Emotional Learning/ Restorative Practice Specialist at