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Category Archives: Prevention

How Schools Can Help Preserve the Next Generation

apple for teacherThrough our “Preserving the Next Generation” series, we have discussed the importance of addressing the intergenerational cycle of addiction and using the Search Institute 40 Developmental Assets to build protective factors in our youth.  Schools also play a huge role in the lives of our youth and can be powerful in the prevention of youth substance use.  One of my favorite quotes by Ron Edmonds, 1986 states “A school can create a coherent environment, a climate, more potent that any single influence – teachers, class, family, neighborhood, so potent that for at least six hours a day it can override almost everything else in the lives of children”.

Academics remains the forefront in any educational setting, however, as needs of students have grown, so has the ability of schools to address the social-emotional needs of students and families.  One of the most successful programs in Pennsylvania that addresses the needs of students is the Student Assistance Program (SAP).  Now in its 30th year, SAP helps schools identify students who are experiencing behavior and or academic difficulties that are posing a barrier to their learning and success in school. SAP offers support to those students and their families.  The Council has been a proud Commonwealth Approved Trainer in the Student Assistance Program, training over 75 education professionals each year how to assist students and their families.  Schools can identify students, through observable behaviors, who may need support in academics, attendance, health or behaviors.  This comprehensive program is confidential, supportive and successful.  Through SAP, students and families may be linked to school or community-based supports to help the student maintain a healthy and happy future. 

Schools can also utilize the Search Institutes 40 Developmental Assets to preserve the next generation.  Out of the 40 identified assets, school can foster 22 assets in students alone.  Some schools develop 40 asset themes where they identify certain assets to foster throughout the month, or semester.  They then plan universal programming to the students to teach about those assets.   Schools also partner with Community That Care Coalitions who provide essential prevention programming to educate students on alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention.   Prevention programs can encompass classroom presentation, student assemblies and school-based groups. 

All these program teach youth skills and interventions to help support their health and success in their personal lives and academic careers.  Common tools that are taught to students are positive decision-making skills, refusal skills, healthy relationships, and positive communication skills, as well as the dangers of substance use.  Schools also can assist families with obtaining educational materials that address talking to youth about substance abuse, assistance with access to treatment providers, recovery support services and aftercare planning for students returning after treatment. 

To learn more about services available in schools and what additional supports The Council offers to schools please contact us at 215-230-8218 ext. 5 or visit our website at

Melissa Groden, MS, HS-BCP
Prevention and School Services Manager

Families Now Have a Tool to Prevent Overdose

narcan-with-needle3-300x234One person dies every 19 minutes from unintentional drug overdose (Paulozzi 2012). Pennsylvania is among the ten states with the highest opioid use and overdose rates (Paulozzi 2012).  With these staggering statistics, families at times may feel powerless in protecting their loved ones from an overdose.  However, on September 30, 2014, Pennsylvania legislators voted to enact a law that will provide a tool to prevent overdose.   Effective December 1, 2014, Pennsylvania became the 21st state to implement a “Good Samaritan Law” which allows an individual to call 911 or emergency services for a person who is overdosing without fear of facing charges themselves for being involved in drug use or being impaired.

The Good Samaritan Law also added Pennsylvania to the list of states which provide legal access to Naloxone, a lifesaving drug that reverses the effects of opiates/opioids. To date there are 29 states which provide access to either families, friends or both. The means of access vary from state to state but here in PA, starting December 1st, any physician can write a prescription for the lifesaving drug Naloxone to family members or friends. The stigma of addiction in today’s society is bad enough, but withholding a lifesaving drug based on stigma alone is inexcusable.

Now with the passing of The Good Samaritan Law, friends and family members of someone who is in an active opiate addiction can get a prescription so that they will have it on hand in case it is needed.  The access to Naloxone should not be reserved for opiate dependent persons. Anyone who is prescribed an opioid runs the risk of accidental overdose. So perhaps in order to protect our family and friends, Naloxone should be scripted to anyone receiving a prescription for an opioid pain medication. Since all opioid pain medications carry the risk of accidental overdose, this precautionary measure would no doubt save lives.

The access to Naloxone should not be stigmatized as a safety net as some have called it, but as a tool to prevent overdose.  Recovery support services and family education should follow any treatment for a substance use disorder.  The Good Samaritan Law provides a way for families and friends to prevent their loved ones from overdose, and accessing emergency services without fear of incrimination. The Good Samaritan Law also allows families and individuals who have experienced an overdose to get the support they need to start their path to recovery.  Through education and recovery support services, individuals and families will learn tools and strategies to help break the intergenerational cycle of addiction and preserve our next generation.  What our community can learn from the enactment of the Good Samaritan Law is that every life is valuable and we need to offer all supports available to protect the next generation. 

The Council’s Overdose Prevention and Education Advisory Board offers an “Overdose Prevention, Education and Response Training” that walks a person through treating someone who is experiencing an overdose and how families can administer Naloxone.  This training is not meant to replace calling 911, rather it designed to stabilize a person until first responders arrive. The first step in any overdose, should always be to call 911. It is vital to get the person who is overdosing medical attention even after the person is given Naloxone and brought out of their overdose. Since the effects of heroin outlast the effects of naloxone, the person could slip back into an overdose once the Naloxone wears off.

So now that the Good Samaritan Law has been enacted, it will no doubt save lives. It is our responsibility to let people know that this law exists and how to navigate it. If you have a friend, family member or loved one who could benefit from this law and access to Naloxone, let them know about it and encourage them to attend a training. The Council will be offering a newly revised training in January that expands on The Good Samaritan Law and Naloxone administration and distribution.  For more information please visit our Overdose Prevention and Education Advisory Board webpage:

David Fialko, BS
Prevention Specialis
The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania, Inc.

40 Assets and Family Dinners

Family eatingThe Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets are the building blocks of development that help children grow up healthy, caring and responsible. According to the Search Institute, studies consistently show that the more protective factors that young people have, the more likely they are to be prepared for life and the less likely they are to engage in high-risk behaviors.

How can I incorporate the 40 Assets in my home?
One way to get things started is to encourage regular family dinners. This is a simple event that has become few and far between in many households. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), children that eat dinner with their parents regularly are less likely to use drugs, drink or smoke, and that parent/child engagement around the dinner table is one of the most powerful tools in helping parents to raise healthy, drug-free children.

My family has been affected by addiction. Is it too late for us?
No! While it may have been a tougher road for those children who grew up with one or more parents struggling with a substance use disorder, children are very resilient. It is never too late to begin building assets. In these cases, there is a need to boost assets in other areas of the child’s environment. Research shows that children at high risk still have a chance to bounce back and grow up to be happy, confident and successful individuals. It is just a matter of strengthening support in other areas to make up for those that may be lacking. Another important factor is to create and/or maintain family rituals. If these rituals continue, even if parents are struggling with substance use disorders, children are less likely to become involved with alcohol or other drugs.

Protective factors can be provided in the home, school, church, or in the general community.  These factors are divided into two categories, in a total of eight areas:

External: Things that other people provide for youth in the home, school and community:
Support: Young people need to be surrounded by people who love, care for, appreciate, and accept them.
Empowerment: Young people need to feel valued and valuable. This happens when youth feel safe and respected.
Boundaries and Expectations: Young people need clear rules, consistent consequences for breaking rules, and encouragement to do their best.
Constructive Use of Time: Young people need opportunities outside of school to learn and develop new skills and interests with other youth and adults.

Internal: The attitudes, values and capabilities within each child:
Commitment to Learning: Young people need a sense of the lasting importance of learning and a belief in their own abilities.
Positive Values: Young people need to develop strong guiding values to help them make healthy life choices.
Social Competencies: Young people need the skills to interact effectively with others, to make difficult decisions, and to cope with new situations.
Positive Identity: Young people need to believe in their own self-worth and to feel they have control over the things that happen to them.      

Check out the full list of the 40 Developmental Assets and other great family resources here: (40 Developmental Assets) (South Bend Kroc Center “Ideas for Parents” newsletter)
(Search Institute’s “Family Assets List”)
(Parent Further article “Building Family Assets at Home: Ideas for All Family Members”) (CASA study, “Importance of Family Dinners VIII”)

Jessica Schwartz
Prevention Specialist
The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania, Inc.

Parents…The #1 Prevention Tool

Parents-should-always-talk-to-their-kids-about-drugsParents Have the Power!
Parents – did you know that you are the most powerful prevention tool in your child’s life? Contrary to popular belief, your influence is greater than that of peers, the Internet and social media! This fact is backed by over 35 years of scientific research. Engaging in on-going dialogue with your child about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs (ATOD) is one of the best strategies you can employ to improve your child’s outlook for a healthy, drug-free future.

When to have the talk.
Using ATOD is a decision that youth are being forced to make at increasingly earlier ages. The average child takes his or her first drink at age 12. The earlier parents begin dialogue with their children about drug and alcohol prevention, the less likely they are to turn to these substances when they reach adolescence. The conversation and language will sound different depending on the child’s age. Information should be age-appropriate. For instance, early elementary children should understand the difference between food and poison, medicine and illegal drugs, but older children should understand the risks and short- and long-term consequences of ATOD, including addiction. Continue the dialogue, even throughout the college years.

What should you say? 
The former “just say no” approach of the Nancy Reagan era is not effective. It is important to teach your child how  to say “no” to alcohol, tobacco and other drugs (ATOD) and specifically what to say or do in certain situations. Practice different scenarios to allow your child to think about how he or she would respond when presented with various situations. You can even make it fun! Encourage your child to use you as an excuse (e.g. “My mom would kill me if she found out I was drinking beer!”).

The brain continues to develop until age 25, and so a child’s biological ability to make good decisions on their own is not mature. Parents should set specific boundaries and rules around the acceptance of drug and alcohol use. Children will not assume that you disapprove of their use of alcohol and other drugs; it must be explicitly stated, as well as consequences of breaking the rules. If you are unclear about your position, children may be confused and tempted to experiment. Research shows that children who chose to avoid ATOD did so because they did not want to disappoint their parents. When parents establish clear, consistent “no use” rules, their children are more likely to lead alcohol- and drug-free lives.

Parents are sometimes hesitant to engage in ATOD conversation for fear of being questioned about their own use as a teen. Whether you are in recovery or had experimented with drugs as a teen, you can use your own experience to convey a prevention message. Honesty is fine, but do avoid glamorizing any past use or providing too much detail. Instead, emphasize the negative consequences that resulted from your use. In addition, let your child know that much has changed since you were a teen. This includes the purity of drugs like heroin, the strength of THC in marijuana and nicotine in tobacco products and the proliferation of prescription and over-the-counter drug misuse. In addition, new brain research reveals that early ATOD use can cause permanent brain cell damage and vulnerability to addiction.

How should you have the talk?
Find teachable moments. In the age of technology and instant access to news and other information, the subject of ATOD is unavoidable. Celebrities or professional athletes in the news due to drug use, and the negative consequences, could spark a meaningful dialogue. Ask about your child’s opinion on a book or character, movie or TV show, local and national news. If a friend or family member is struggling with addiction, help your child process this by having a conversation about it.

Family dinners and driving in the car offer ideal opportunities to start a conversation about ATOD. The dialogue should go two-ways. Ask open-ended questions to encourage a more in-depth conversation with your child. Ask what he or she knows or has heard about ATOD.

What else can you do to utilize your power as a parent?
Have daily positive interactions with your child. Children are less likely to engage in ATOD use when their parents are involved in their lives and when they share a close bond. Educate yourselves about ATOD and current drugs trends. Much of the information available online is pro-drug, so if your child or his or her peers obtain their information via the Internet, most likely it will be one-sided. It is important that your child knows he or she can come to you for accurate information, and that you are equipped to dispel any myths he or she may have read online or heard from a friend. Children are 50% less likely to use ATOD if they learn the risks of drugs from their parents.

One in four children is exposed to a substance use disorder in the family. Inform your child that addiction has a strong familial component. If you or an immediate family member is in recovery or has struggled with addiction, it is important that your child understands that this increases his or her overall risk of developing an addiction. The risk is both genetic and environmental; research shows that children of parents with substance use disorders are more than five times more likely to develop an ATOD-related problem than children in families without them. This familial component paired with the high level of risk-taking inspired by the teen brain increases a young person’s risk of becoming addicted even more.

Teen prescription drug misuse has increased in recent years. This is attributed to a lowered perception of harm in misusing medications because they are legal and prescribed by a doctor. In reality, some prescription drugs, particularly the opioid-based narcotics, are equally as harmful as street drugs such as heroin when misused. Parents can help educate their children about the risks involved. In addition to the health risks, it is illegal to give or sell prescription drugs to someone for whom the prescription was not intended, yet 70% of people who misuse prescription pain relievers say that they obtain them from family or friends.

Parents can restrict access to any medications they may be prescribed by locking up their medicine cabinet or storing the medications in a secure place, as well as counting and monitoring the number of pills. If parents have any medications that are unwanted, expired or unneeded, they may dispose of them in any of the 31 permanent medication drop boxes that are located in police departments throughout Bucks County as well as the Bucks County Courthouse.

To find a drop box near you, visit for Bucks County; for Montgomery County; for Delaware County; for Chester County locations. For an update on medication drop boxes in Philadelphia County and locations statewide, please visit the interactive state map on the website of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) at:

Alcohol and drug use can be prevented and prevention starts with you! Never underestimate your power to prevent substance abuse. To educate yourself about ATOD and remain up-to-date on the latest trends, as well as to obtain ideas for talking to your kids about ATOD, please visit the following sites:  (Partnership for Drug-free Kids) (National Institute on Drug Abuse) (MADD) (Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Prevention of Underage Drinking ([ICCPUD]) (DEA) (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

Unleash your parent power and get together with your kids…before drugs do!

Melanie Swanson, M.Ed., CTTS
Prevention Specialist
The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania, Inc.

Prevention Starts with Education

JuvenileWhy do a percentage of youth use alcohol, tobacco and other drugs (ATOD)? For many it is simply about “experimenting” and not knowing any better due to a lack information and / or lack of resources. Thankfully, “experimenting” also involves healthy options such as sports, music and culture. As statistics show; more and more youth continue to choose the healthy options rather than the unhealthy. Despite peer pressure or the lower perceived level of harm regarding substances such as cannabis and prescription medication, today, youth are making better decisions. Why? Part of the reason is due to a nationwide increase in prevention efforts. Today, the field of prevention not only gives youth anti-drug messaging encouraging them to say no, it also provides them with an education and the reasons which the youth need in order to say no.

As a Prevention Specialist, I like to focus on health promotion and information dissemination regarding how drugs and alcohol negatively impact ones overall quality of life and one’s own ability to “feel good naturally”. A strong emphasis is placed on identifying realistic negative outcomes associated with ATOD use, thus increasing the youths perceived level of harm regarding ATOD use. Furthermore, I like to focus on how the brain is designed to reward us with “natural highs” (endorphins) for engaging in activities that require a skill set and effort resulting in personal achievement and peer recognition. Prevention discussions also identify the importance of embracing healthy experimentation so that a young person improves their inventory of healthy coping mechanisms which they will use to navigate challenges in life. Studies show that a youth’s peer group has a significant impact on the decisions they make, especially during emotionally charged settings such as parties and other anxiety prone settings. Therefore, I encourage youth to surround themselves with healthy people, healthy things and engage in healthy fun in order to reduce the possibility of unhealthy peer pressure.

It is not just the youths responsibility to stay informed, it also the parents responsibility. When speaking with parents the focus lies on the importance of providing youth with healthy experimental opportunities which will allow for a youth to identify what they enjoy, and are good at. When a youth discovers something they are good at, it is important for parents to give the recognition which is deserved and needed. This encourages the youth to engage in that activity again and strengthen their skill set for that activity. When their skill set improves recognition increases and vice versa. When parents provide opportunities and recognition it builds trust and bonding between family members which leads to a healthy belief system which reduces the likely hood of alcohol or drug use. This process gives youth a reason to say no.

The field of prevention is constantly adapting to the challenges we face in today’s society although our main goal remains: to provide youth, families and communities information which they can then utilize to make well informed decisions and delay the first use of alcohol and/or other drugs. Statistics show that this process works: According to SAMHSA; data shows that between 2002 and 2011, adolescents’ past-month use illicit drugs declined from 11.6 to 10.1 percent. We are continuing to make progress in these numbers. Addiction and dependency starts in the formative adolescent years but with an increased focus on prevention efforts and a broader platform nationwide to deliver prevention services we will continue to see a reduction in the number of transition age youth and young adults dealing with addiction. For information about prevention programing contact The Councils Information Hotline at 1-800-221-6333.

David Fialko
Prevention Specialist
The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania

Tavern Gaming: Expanding Gambling in Pennsylvania

pull tab gambling gamesOn Nov. 27, Gov. Tom Corbett signed Act 90 of 2013 into law legalizing tavern gaming – that is, tavern raffles for a charitable or public purpose, pull-tab games and daily drawings at certain licensed establishments. 

Why should anyone care?  This is part of a continued expansion of gambling opportunities for Pennsylvania residents.  This sort of gaming was relegated to private clubs; like Legions and Veteran’s Associations, but will now be accepted at public venues that hold liquor licenses such as; restaurants, hotels, privately-owned public golf courses and brew pubs.   

With availability comes increase of use.  With increase of use comes the potential for an increase in problems.  These sorts of games can be viewed as harmless, like instant lottery tickets.  The reality is that these types of gambling can become just as addictive as all other forms of gambling.  Consider the availability of instant lotteries; they can be purchased in just about every convenient store and/or gas station.  In the fiscal year of 2012-2013, Pennsylvania sold over 2 billion dollars in instant lottery tickets.  

Consider the expansion of casinos in Pennsylvania.  In 2009-2010, the number of people that sought help for a gambling problem through state funding (Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Programs) was 107.  In 2010-2011, that number rose by over 50% to 166.  Is there a correlation to The Sands (opened 5/2009), Parx (expanded gambling 12/2009) and Sugar House (opened 9/2010) opening and/or offering expanded gambling during this time?  

The information listed above is why we should care.  Gambling is a serious addiction that certainly won’t decrease as long as we increase the opportunities for PA residents to gamble.  If you or a family member is experiencing problems related to gambling please visit our website and/or call our 1-800-221-6333 hotline to find out how to access help. 

Check out the PA Liquor Control Board website for more information about Act 90.

M. Jason Radosky
Criminal Justice Manager

Unintentional Drug Overdoses: An unfortunate trend affecting all communities and what you can do.

opiates-abuseBucks County and the rest of the Country continues to battle the escalating problem of Prescription Medication and Heroin abuse. Heroin is no longer an “inner city drug”. It has made its way into all of our suburbs and it appears it is not leaving anytime soon despite law enforcements vigilant efforts. For people aged 25-64, more die from drug overdose than car crashes. In October of this year, 63 people in Bensalem, Pa., overdosed on opiate/opioid drugs. Recently, the Trust for America’s Health released a report which found Pennsylvania has the 14th highest rate of drug overdose deaths. This report also noted that Pennsylvania had 15.3 overdose deaths per 100,000 residents in 2010 and most of those deaths involved the use of prescription drugs.

Here in Bucks County there were 136 drug-related deaths(documented by DAWN). Of these deaths, opioids were the number one cause of drug-related deaths with heroin being specified in half of the deaths. Furthermore it was documented that more than 50% of the deaths were people under the age of 34. Nationally, drug overdose is the leading cause of injury death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drug overdose deaths have jumped 102-percent from 1999 to 2010 and as of the last reporting in 2010, 60-percent of those deaths were related to pharmaceuticals.  The CDC also found that of the 38,329 overdose deaths in 2010 that involved pharmaceuticals, 75-percent involved some form of opioid.

So what do prescription opiate pharmaceuticals and heroin have in common? They are both opiates and both have a very high potential for dependency and addiction as well posing very serious health risks such as overdose. Many young people begin experimenting with prescription medications and move to heroin due to the high cost associated with pharmaceuticals. Here is an informational brochure on Heroin and one on Prescription Medications. Also find out how and where to safely and legally dispose of your unused / unwanted prescription medications here

The Overdose Prevention and Education Advisory Board invites you to come out and find out what is being done in both Bucks  County as well as state wide regarding opiate drug use and the rise in overdoses. Attending will allow you to be part of not only the conversation but learn how you can be part of the solution. We will be meeting monthly at various locations throughout Bucks County for convenience of the communities. By attending, you are not required to attend future monthly meetings although you are always welcome. If you are interested in becoming a member, membership only means that you will receive monthly e-mails regarding issues related to overdoses and opioid drug use. The Task Force is also forming sub-committee’s based on areas of interest and professional experience. We welcome everyone to participate; community members, law enforcement, recovery services, medical providers, pharmacists, persons in recovery, etc.

 Task Force goals include but are not limited to:

  • Educating others on the topic and saving lives. Outreach and education creates partnerships that may then focus on other initiatives or strategies.
  • Promoting awareness and encouraging further action.  Actions may include getting the word out and gaining support for legislative actions such as Senator Pileggis HB 1164 – Good Samaritan Act.

 Please feel free to contact David Fialko with any and all questions at 215-230-8218 x 316

Our next meeting is January 22, 2014 and is being hosted by:
Livengrin – The Foundation For Addiction Recovery:  Oxford Valley
195 Bristol-Oxford Valley Rd.
Langhorne, PA  19047
Meeting time: 6:00 pm to 7:30pm
Food and beverages will be provided

This program is made possible by funding through the Bucks County Drug Alcohol Commission, Inc.

 * SAMHSA and the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality  National Surveys on Drug Use and Health

David Fialko, BS
Prevention Specialist

Bailiwick Office Campus Unit 12, 252 West Swamp Rd. Doylestown, PA 18901 | 215.345.6644


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