Coalition for Healthy Communities

Our mission is to reduce substance abuse, especially among youth, by providing
opportunities for increased collaboration, coordinated planning, and sharing of resources.
Wednesday, 24 September 2014 20:00

Coalition Events

Prevention Education Summit

Dozens of professionals, including educators, law enforcement officials, municipal alliance members and health care and substance abuse providers attended the 14th annual Middlesex County Prevention Education Summit held June 6, 2016 at the Middlesex County Fire Academy in Sayreville.  The event was titled "Pills to Heroin: It's Happening to Good People".

The Summit featured opening remarks by Andrew Carey, Middlesex County Prosecutor. Four workshops were offered, including an overview of the heroin issue, presented by Douglas S. Collier of the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, Division of Consumer Affairs. Dr. Samantha Berman of the Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Emergency Medicine provided a presentation on the Heroin and Prescription Drug problem from the perspective of Physicians/Prescribers. Luigi Brunetti of the Rutgers University School of Pharmacy discussed the same issue from the perspective of pharmacists.

The final workshop presented individuals who have been affected by the current substance use epidemic and, the event concluded with a presentation by a special guest speaker, Ray Lucas, former NFL Player & Rutgers Alum. Several exhibitor tables were set up to provide additional information and resources.

Another feature at this event was a Medicine Take-Back conducted by the Sayreville Police Department. Attendees were encouraged to clean out there homes of any expired or unneeded medications and disposed of them safely. Studies show that the majority of people who abuse prescription medication get them from family and friends, often taking them out of someone’s medicine cabinet without their knowledge. This practice has fueled the current opiate/heroin epidemic our country is facing.

The conference was sponsored by: the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the Middlesex County Municipal Alliance Program, and Wellspring Center for Prevention (formerly NCADD of Middlesex County).


Marijuana Town Hall Meeting

For two hours, dozens of Spotswood residents sat or stood and listened to a panel discussion, frequently joining in on the passionate dialogue and debate. In the end, everyone agreed on one thing. The discussion needs to continue.

Titled "Marijuana. It's Complicated – Let's Talk," the July 17th event featured a panel of experts that included NCADD of Middlesex County, Inc. CEO & Executive Director Steve Liga; Amanda Bent, New Jersey Drug Policy Associate at the Drug Policy Alliance; Timothy B., a Rutgers University student; and Detective Scott Hoover of the Spotswood Police Department.

The event was moderated by Evan Weiss, Director of Admissions at Integrity House. Among the topics covered was whether marijuana is a gateway drug. The consensus among the panelists was that most people who use marijuana do not become addicted, but of those individuals who develop substance use disorders most start with marijuana before moving on to other drugs. The question was raised whether marijuana is "safe to use," and the panel agreed that it depends on the individual and that a blanket assessment cannot be made. Detective Hoover pointed out that it is not uncommon for officers in Spotswood to stop vehicles and observe the odor of marijuana, indicating use by the driver or other occupants. But, noted Hoover, he and other officers are more likely to encounter drivers who are under the influence of prescription drugs or alcohol.

When the discussion turned to whether marijuana has medical benefits, Mr. Liga pointed out that "smoking anything is unhealthy, and we would never accept our doctors prescribing anything else in this format." "Yet," he continued, "it is likely some of the many psychoactive chemicals in marijuana could be synthesized into real medicine in the future." Ms. Bent noted, "That may be true, but that doesn't help those suffering now."

But both Mr. Liga and Ms. Bent agreed that more balanced non-politicized research is needed in order to determine the extent of both the potential benefits and harms of marijuana use.

Perhaps what was most striking about the event was the respectful tenor of the discussion.
Those in attendance ranged from adolescents to grandparents, and everyone was accepting of each other's views. The majority seemed to agree current policy should change, but only in a carefully considered and measured approach.

Attendees at the event were treated to light refreshments and a raffle that featured an iPad mini and other gifts donated by local merchants.

The event was sponsored by the Spotswood Municipal Alliance and their Alliance Coordinator Kacie Manzo, NCADD, and the Coalition for Healthy Communities.

Young Women's Conference

The Coalition for Healthy Communities held its 10th annual Young Women's Conference.

The event saw participation by 18 high schools from across Middlesex County. A total of 140 young women attended this full day conference, which was held at the St. John Neumann Conference & Banquet Center in Piscataway, NJ.

The conference, titled "My Journey, My Voice: Empowering Young Women," provided attendees with interactive and educational activities designed to help them gain valuable knowledge and resources to support them throughout their lifetime.

New for this year, conference attendees were encouraged to take back a specific programming idea for implementation over the months remaining before the end of the school year. With each attending school group participating, it will ensure a broader county-wide impact. The theme for this year is "You Are Beautiful." Students from Dunellen High School adopted this campaign for school-wide implementation and then presented their ideas to the students at the conference. "You are Beautiful" is a weeklong event designed to build self-esteem and self-awareness in teen girls. It starts off as a whisper, moves on to silent messages and then ends with the girls saying it loud that they are beautiful. Coalition members will work with participating schools to help them develop and implement "You are Beautiful" campaigns locally.

Attendees were also treated to a special dynamic performance of "Voices" by NCADD's Acts of Prevention™ theater troupe. Acts of Prevention™ debuted at the First Annual Young Women's Conference back in 2004 and have since presented to thousands of students and professionals across the state. Voices is written to empower young women, utilizing real problems that young people all too often face alone on issues such as drug abuse, eating disorders, teen pregnancy, homosexuality, and other such as drug abuse, eating disorders, teen pregnancy, homosexuality, and other problems that teens struggle with every day. This performance teaches young woman that there is help when they need it, and that no matter what may happen, they are not alone.

Sticker Shock

Sticker Shock is designed to raise awareness about underage drinking and youth access to alcohol and to strengthen the laws against providing alcohol to a minor.

The program engages student volunteers who visit participating merchants to place brightly colored stickers on multipacks of beer, wine coolers and other alcoholic products that appeal to underage drinkers. The stickers and door signs spell out a strong reminder: "KEEP IT LEGAL! It's ILLEGAL to buy alcohol for youth under age 21. The penalty is up to 6 Months Jail Time + $1,000 Fine"

"Project Sticker Shock" is to educate the public and change community attitudes about selling and serving alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. For more information on how to bring "Project Sticker Shock" to your community contact Heather Ward at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 732-254-3344.

TIPS Training

TIPS is an effective educational program designed to reduce alcohol-related problems in your establishment and in the community.

Bouncers, bartenders, servers and cashiers are the first line of defense when it comes to selling alcohol responsibly. Participants will learn how to detect the latest techniques in fake id's, recognize signs of intoxication, intervene quickly and assuredly in potential problem situations, and differentiate between people enjoying themselves and those getting into trouble with alcohol using proven strategies to prevent alcohol-related problems.

TIPS has many immediate benefits such as lower insurance premiums, reduced exposure to alcohol liability lawsuits, decreased penalities for alcohol violations, safer communities and improved customer service. For more information on how to bring a TIPS training to your community contact Heather Ward at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 732-254-3344.

Health Fairs/National Night Out

The Coalition for Healthy Communities provides an interactive information table at community health fairs and other mobile community fairs and venues. We provide fun prizes using an interactive wheel for children and their parents to learn about substance abuse. The CHC tries to get out to as many as 15-20 different fairs each year all over the County, including National Night Out.