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The 19th Annual New Jersey Prevention Network Addiction Conference


By Gina-Marie Miraglia, Preventionist I

Last Friday, May 10th, I attended the annual NJPN Addiction Conference for the first time and it was a truly unique experience. The conference was attended by almost 1,700 of New Jersey's professionals in the substance use field from prevention, treatment centers, child and family agencies, and law enforcement. Throughout the day, the diverse attendees collaborated, networked and allied together as we learned ways to combat substance use disorder. It was great being able to reconnect with our partners, make new connections, and to share the experience with my coworkers; Melisa Damcevska, Jenna Bonstein, Helen Varvi, Heather Ward, and Nicki Francis.

The day began with keynote speaker David Sheff, author of New York Times #1 best seller Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey through His Son's Addiction. Sheff shared his personal story of his son's substance use disorder and how it affected him and his family. His story touched the hearts of the crowd as he shared his feelings and experiences throughout his son's journey to recovery.

The conference hosted various exhibits and workshop sessions to appeal to the wide mixture of attendees. Some workshop topics included; electronic cigarette use, adverse childhood experiences, codependency, treatment approaches, and marijuana and pregnancy. There were so many different perspectives shared and information to gain knowledge and skills from to bring back to our agencies.

The two workshops I attended were; Creating Connections: The Path to Safety and Wellness for our Communities presented by Douglas Collier former DEA agent and Don't BLOW Your Chance for a Healthy Baby …The Truth About Marijuana and Pregnancy presented by Deena Cohen from the Central Jersey Family Health Consortium.

Collier shared the importance of community partnerships and collaboration to keep our communities safe from tragedies such as school shootings or terrorism. He further explained how the best way to protect our communities is by strengthening community-police partnerships and having the courage to speak up when you know something is not right; "see something say something".

In Cohen's presentation, she shared existing research about the consequences of marijuana use during pregnancy. "1 in 20 women in the United States reports using marijuana while pregnant," and the long-term consequences are still unidentified. Though there is still a lot to be discovered, Cohen shared what we currently do know. Available research proves that marijuana use while pregnant negatively impacts the baby's development including low birthweights. Also, if a mother chooses to breastfeed, it is important to know that the THC in marijuana is stored in the breast milk. Thus, further exposing the baby to the drug.

For those who have not yet attended this annual conference; the 20th Annual NJPN Addiction Conference will be held May 1st, 2020.

For more information about the conference please visit:


Wellspring Preventionists Gina-Marie Miraglia (left) and Melisa Damcevska enjoy their visit to this year's NJPN Conference

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