Have you been thinking lately that you would like to be more involved in your community? Are you concerned with what you are hearing about drugs, especially about heroin, on the news these days, specifically if you are a parent of a teen/tween? Do you want make a difference? That’s what members of the Safe Communities Coalition of Hunterdon/ Somerset do – they make a difference!
“I’m proud to be a member of the Safe Communities Coalition,” said Jerri Collevechio, Senior Director, Safe Communities Coalition of Hunterdon/Somerset. “Drugs and underage drinking are a problem in Hunterdon County, and the Coalition is on the forefront of education about the dangers of substance abuse to both youth and parents.”
The Coalition has had great success working on initiatives to educate the community and to help enact environmental changes within the county on substance abuse, including underage drinking, tobacco, e-cigarettes and vape pens, marijuana, prescription (Rx) drugs, and heroin. The Coalition partners and collaborates with all sectors of the community – government, law enforcement, school, faith-based, medical, business, parents, youth – which has enabled its members to accomplish quite a lot within a one-year period of time.
“We cannot arrest ourselves out of the crisis of substance abuse. Law enforcement needs to partner with community organizations such as the Safe Communities Coalition, as the problem needs to be fought on many fronts,” said Hunterdon County Prosecutor Anthony P. Kearns III, which whom the Coalition collaborates on a myriad of events and initiatives. “The Coalition has been a great partner since 2011, and will continue to serve the Hunterdon community and its residents.”
“The Hunterdon County Sheriff’s Office is proud to work with the Coalition to keep Hunterdon County safe,” said Hunterdon County Sheriff Fred Brown, whose Office coordinates prescription drug take-back collections. “By giving residents a place to safely dispose of prescription drugs helps keep the drugs out of the wrong hands. The cooperation between all of the different agencies involved proves together we can make a difference.”
Members of the Coalition were recently recognized at a celebratory meeting for all of their accomplishments during 2014. Some of those accomplishments are highlighted below:
- Our documentary, From Pills to Heroin, went national when mentioned in a segment on CBS News; the video is now embedded on the CBS News website. From Pills to Heroin was created in 2013 to address the progression of prescription drug abuse to heroin abuse, with real-life stories from recovering addicts and family members of addicts. From Pills to Heroin has been added to curriculums at Kean University and Raritan Valley Community College. It has also been approved by the NJ Department of Education and added as a tool to be used for State of NJ Curriculum. To view the documentary, visit http://safecoalition.org/2013-09-18-pills-to-heroin-documentary.
- Three new permanent Rx drop boxes were installed within the county at police stations in Readington, Frenchtown, and Tewksbury. A total of 1,236 pounds of unused and/or expired medications were collected in 2014 from the six permanent boxes located throughout the county. The Coalition would like to thank theHunterdon County Sheriff’s Office for their partnership and assistance in collecting the medications, as well as their participation in the bi-annual national DEA Take-Back Days and other take-back events which they sponsor periodically in the county at churches and senior centers. For the location of an Rx box near you, visit http://safecoalition.org/2013-07-09-rx-disposal.
- The Coalition provided information about the 911 Lifeline Legislation to educate both parents and youth on this lifesaving law. This legislation encourages youth to call 911 in a medical emergency involving underage drinking; immunity from prosecution is given to the person in need of assistance plus up to 2 other youth who stay at the scene until law enforcement and/or medical help arrives. Information was provided at two Teen Safety Nights to high school juniors and their parents, at a presentation to seniors prior to prom, and to families who attended National Night Out in August.
- A Marijuana Toolkit was created for parents to educate them on the dangers of marijuana use. The Toolkit consists of a variety of cards with information such as:
- Marijuana today is 2 ½ times more potent than it was 30 years ago; the increased power makes marijuana potentially more toxic to our teens’ developing brains.
- Teens who choose to remain drug free report that their parents are the number one influence in their decision.
- Marijuana is the most common illegal drug found in drivers who die in accidents (around 14% of drivers).
- The Youth Coalition now has 60 youth members from 4 of the county high schools, with a focus on underage drinking, marijuana and vaping (e-cigarettes).
For a full list of 2014 accomplishments, visit our website at http://safecoalition.org/2015-01-22-hunterdon-coalition-2014-accomplishments.
2014 also saw the retirement of two of the Coalition’s co-founding members: Cheryl Copeland, Student Assistance Counselor at Hunterdon Central who retired in June, and Ogden Kruger, Student Assistance Counselor at DelVal High School, who retired in December. The “Safe Homes Coalition” was created in 2000 in response to an underage drinking incident. Both Ms. Copeland and Ms. Kruger were active Coalition members from that time until their retirement. Both women were honored for their dedication and years of service to the Coalition.
Caption: From left to right: Lesley Gabel, Safe Communities Coalition Project Director;
Jerri Collevechio, Director of Community Coalitions; and Coalition Founding Member Ogden Kruger,
who just retired in December 2014. Ms. Kruger was honored for her dedication and years of service to the Coalition.
Anyone wishing to join the Safe Communities Coalition can call 908-782-3909.
The goal of the Safe Communities Coalition of Hunterdon/Somerset is to live in a Safe and healthy community by eliminating drug use, underage drinking and prescription drug abuse. Through wide-spread community collaboration, environmental change, and community education in Hunterdon and Somerset counties, the Safe Communities Coalition will address areas of concern including, but not limited to, reducing Rx drug abuse across the lifespan, underage drinking, tobacco, marijuana, heroin, and other drug use. For more information on the Coalition, visit their website at www.safecoalition.org.