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Council & Recovery News

May Series: Family Support for Loved Ones in Addiction

Most families are in denial an average seven years about their loved one’s addiction.

If you think you or someone you love has a drug or alcohol problem, The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania, Inc., provides help and hope free of charge. 

The Council’s monthly Family Education Program is offered at 10 locations throughout our five-county area for friends and family of a loved one caught in the throes of addiction. 

The three-part series is a unique support system, led by trained volunteers who have been through similar experiences on the road to recovery. They offer confidential guidance and resources to help people in a caring atmosphere with other people in the same situation, who want to understand addiction and the recovery process. The series is free, but contributions are welcome.

The next series kicks off in the first week of May at the following locations: Bucks County (Bristol, Perkasie), Chester County (West Chester), Delaware County/Main Line (Media/Rosemont), Montgomery County (Colmar, Pottstown) and Philadelphia (North Philadelphia, Northeast Philadelphia, Northern Liberties).

About the Family Education Program

The Family Education Program is part of a Council initiative known as ProAct — Pennsylvania Recovery Organization Achieving Community Together. It provides advocacy and recovery support communities open to everyone. The family program has helped more than 3,000 families since it launched in 2001.

Pre-registration is required for all programs. For information on upcoming dates and exact locations, please call our 24/7 confidential information and referral line at 800-221-6333, email or visit

40 Years of Volunteer Support in Our Recovery Community

We’ve come a long way baby! 

Since our grassroots organization sprouted in 1975, The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania. Inc. has grown to 10 recovery community support locations throughout our 5-county area.

Our volunteers are the lifeline of our organization. So we are kicking off our anniversary year of celebrations during Volunteer Appreciation Month—a time when we can show our appreciation for our hundreds of volunteers. The Council will host events at three of our recovery community centers in Bucks and Philadelphia on Wednesday, April 29, with an Open House for visitors during the day (details below)—and Volunteer Celebration events later on.

Each year, 900 volunteers at our sites support people and their families on the road to recovery, donating nearly 60,000 hours of their time, which has an added value of $1.25 million.

Their guidance in helping people sustain and thrive in recovery is so effective that 95% of our participants are drug- and alcohol-free six months into receiving services.

Our peer-to-peer volunteers, as well as our staff, are people in recovery, family members and other supporters of recovery.

Our recovery support groups and workshops are run by trained volunteers who have first-hand experience with addiction. They offer peer-to-peer understanding to help reduce the stigma surrounding addiction, making it easier for people to get help. They are highly committed to the recovery lifestyle and giving back to the community by helping others enjoy a rewarding life too.

We invite the public to stop in and visit us on during our Open House on Wednesday, April 29, to see all that we have to offer for them, their friends and family. Light refreshments will be served so registration is appreciated. Join us at any of these recovery community center locations:

- Central Bucks County, Bailiwick Campus, Unit 12, 252 W. Swamp Road, Doylestown, PA—10 am-2pm

- Lower Bucks County, 1286 Veterans Highway, D-6A, Bristol, PA — 12 Noon to 2:00 pm

- North Philadelphia, 1701 W. Lehigh Avenue, #6, Philadelphia, PA— 10:00 am -  2:00 pm 

If you would like to register for one of our open houses, learn more about being a volunteer recovery supporter, or get information on our many programs and trainings offered for youth prevention, intervention and support, to individuals, families, schools, businesses and the community, please contact us on our 24/7 confidential information and referral line at 800-221-6333, email or visit

"Rethinking Stereotypes: Overdosing in Older Adults"

Medications, Alcohol and the Emergency Room. It's no surprise that adverse drug events are a huge public health issue across the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), these events "cause over 700,000 emergency department visits each year, with nearly 20% resulting in hospital admissions."

What may be a surprise is that a growing portion of these ER visits are in people age 65 and older, involving prescription medications, including in Bucks County.

As people age, they are likely to take more medications - to cure infectious diseases, prevent problems from chronic health issues, and alleviate pain. But these same medications can also cause a great deal of harm.  

"When alcohol is added to the mix, it only further complicates the issue," according to Stacey Conway, Ph.D., director of evaluation and outcomes at The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania, Inc. "Besides the potential dangers of using alcohol with a variety of medications, there is the additional problem of an aging metabolism, which usually doesn't tolerate alcohol as well as it did when the person was younger." 

Telltale Signs for Family and Physicians. Family and friends are usually the first to notice an older parent or other loved one struggling with falls and failing memory, who may now seem more accident prone; but they may just chalk it up to the aging process. And maybe that's all it is. Or maybe there's something more significant and avoidable at play. 

Information and Referral Resource. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that this is a growing problem. "For instance, visiting nurses of older adults with chronic health problems are noticing the problem in patients they care for," according to The Council's Sandy Lochrie, R.N., who works with the medical community through a program called SBIRT - Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral and Treatment. The approach incorporates simple tools that can be used during a medical visit to determine if a person's alcohol or drug use may be causing potential health problems. 

The program offers guidance to health care providers to determine the right questions to ask at the right time. If they suspect that a substance abuse disorder may be at the root of their patient's problem, The Council can be a valuable resource for the provider, their patient and/or the patient's family. 

SBIRT consultations and training are offered free of charge to all Bucks County health care providers, through the support of the Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission, Inc. (BCDAC). Beyond Bucks County, the program is offered to health care providers as a fee-for-service. 

For confidential information and referral resources for all types of addictions recovery support, please contact The Council at our 24/7 intervention and recovery support line at 800-221-6333, by email at

Spreading Heroin Antidote to Loved Ones

The following article "Spreading Heroin Antidote to Loved Ones" was published in The Intelligencer Monday, March 16, 2015
By George Mattar Staff writer

Dave Messina was just 21 when he died from a drug overdose about a year ago.

About 250 others died the same way this past year in Bucks County alone, and many others survived an overdose, said Cathy Messina, Dave’s mother.

Across Pennsylvania, drug overdose deaths have more than quadrupled. The state department of health reported 1,909 deaths from accidental drug overdoses in 2011, the latest figures available. By comparison, in 1990, 333 died from drug overdoses, records show.

Messina and others pray those numbers might soon be going down, with the help of naloxone or Narcan, a drug that prevents or reverses the effects of opioids and saves lives. Naloxone is the intramuscular version. Narcan is a nasal spray.

While emergency medical technicians, and more recently police departments, have been using the drug since the passage of the Opioid Overdose Reversal Act 139, Messina and friend Denise Frattara see some unintended barriers to getting the life-saving medicine into the hands of everyday people who might have a family member, friend or neighbor with an addiction.

So they are holding a naloxone training session from 7 to 9 p.m. March 24 with the help of the Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission Inc., Prevention Point Philadelphia and the Council of Southeast Pennsylvania Inc. Attendees will leave with a free naloxone kit and a prescription for the drug, which costs about $40 a dose.

The event filled up very fast, so another session will be held April 20. To reserve a seat for the second session, email

The events will be held at 1600 Louis Drive, Suite 102-A, Warminster.

“Our focus with these sessions is twofold. First, we want to help save lives by getting naloxone into the hands of the family members and friends who struggle with addiction. Second, we want to help to give a voice to the discussion of addiction as a disease so that we can help reduce the stigma and silence surrounding addiction and help those who struggle.”

And it is a disease, she said.

“As a community, we need to come together to fight against addiction,” said Messina, who added that Frattara was there for her when she dealt with her son’s loss.

She’s hoping that the Narcan sessions will be a start by informing people about addiction, helping attendees learn how to recognize, prevent and respond to an overdose and explaining Act 139, which also gives immunity from prosecution for those responding to and reporting overdoses.

Messina knows she cannot stop drug use, but said, “I didn’t cause it. I can’t control it and I can’t cure it, but I will be damned if I sit by and let it destroy more families.”

George Mattar, 215-949-4165; email:

The Council Featured as the February "Affiliate Spotlight" on NCADD's Website

The Council is a proud Affiliate of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, an organization that provides education, information, help and hope to the public and those who need assistance confronting the disease of alcoholism and drug dependence.  The Council is featured in the Affiliate Spotlight article this month.  Click here to read the article.   

Family Turns Tragic Loss Into Help for Others

 The following article "Education initiative aims to shed the stigma of addiction, save lives" was published in The Intelligencer detailing the motivation behind The Family Education Program's launch at The Deep Run Presbyterian Church in Perkasie, PA.

By Marion Callahan STAFF WRITER

One Perkasie family is determined to save lives.

Jane and Stephen Straw lost their 19-year-old daughter, Anna, to a heroin overdose Nov. 9, 2012, but refused to give in to the stigma that shames so many families into silence when a loved one loses the battle with drugs.

In crafting their daughter’s obituary, they were candid about her death.

Now they are allowing their church, The Presbyterian Church of Deep Run, to use their daughter’s name for a free community education program aimed at shedding the stigma of drug addiction and battling heroin use, a crisis that keeps growing in Bucks and Montgomery counties.

The Anna Straw Initiative, led by parishioner Jim Kosa, is working with The Council of Southeastern Pennsylvania to address the growing problem of addiction to drugs and alcohol in Upper Bucks County. The initiative, which begins Feb. 2, is an extension of the council’s Family Education Program, which is offered in other Bucks locations and surrounding counties, too.

“We want to tap into resources that are already in the community and make them more available to people,” said Kosa.

Kosa said the Anna Straw Initiative will be an ongoing education program aimed at making people who are experiencing addiction feel less alone about stepping forward and reaching for help, family support and information that could save lives. The four two-hour sessions will include an orientation to addiction and how to deal with it.

The Doylestown-based Council of Southeastern Pennsylvania is offering its expertise and support for the sessions, which will be held at the Bedminster church. The council’s education program has been offered across the region for the past 15 years. The training at the church will incorporate the most updated information about the drug crisis, its impact on families, rehabilitation and life-saving drugs, such as Naloxone, which is available in the state and counters the effects of opiods.

Heroin was the primary drug of use for half of all addicts seeking government help in 2014, according to figures released earlier this month by county agencies.

“Opioid (which includes heroin and prescription pain medication) addiction is still the number one reason people are seeking drug treatment in Bucks County, surpassing alcohol for the fourth consecutive year,” said David Fialko, a prevention specialist who oversees Bucks County’s Overdose, Prevention and Education Advisory Board.

The number of heroin cases was up 15 percent from the year prior, according to a Bucks county report. In Montgomery County, heroin admissions were up 8 percent to an “all-time high,” said Kay McGowan, deputy administrator for the department of drug and alcohol services. Half of all Montgomery County’s clients were addicted to heroin, McGowan estimated.

Beverly Haberle, executive director of the council, applauded the church’s initiative.

“The whole faith community needs to deal with this illness and respond to this illness like they respond to people with other illnesses,” she said. “People struggling with addiction don’t get that kind of response. You feel very alone. A loving congregation has the opportunity to let people know they are not dealing with this alone.”

Stephen Straw said he doesn’t want to be perceived as “brave” for making the cause of his daughter’s death public.

“We want people to see it as a disease like any other and it should not come with other baggage,” he said.

Stephen and Jane shared their story about their daughter’s addiction just a few months after she died.

Anna, like so many young users, had her first taste of opiate addiction from the medicine cabinet. Curiosity is what the Straws believe drove Anna to try drugs.

Anna, a 2011 graduate of Pennridge High School, wasn’t sure what she wanted to do when she finished high school, but she didn’t want to travel far from home. She loved fashion and the arts and talked about going to cosmetology school.

Drugs derailed her career plans, Jane said.

Shortly after graduation, Anna tried Percocet, a prescription painkiller that friends had given her. The drug quickly changed her life. The yearning to find a cheaper drug with as good a high led her down an eerily familiar path for users — the road to heroin. In a matter of weeks, she made the jump from pills to heroin.

Jane recalls sitting on the front porch with Anna, listening as her daughter described her addiction and her lack of control.

“She didn’t want this to be her life, and she wanted to fix it,” she said. “Once she began, she didn’t know how.”

One Friday in November 2012, after a stretch of sobriety, Anna was dressed nicely and ready to go job hunting. That night, she didn’t return home. The next day, she didn’t return phone calls or texts from family or friends.

Then, minutes before Jane was ready to head out to Bristol Township, one of the known places Anna went to use drugs, the family heard a knock on the door. It was a police officer with news that Anna had been found dead in a parked car. She had overdosed on heroin.

To keep her affliction a secret was never an option. Telling the truth was necessary, Jane said.

“My love was not lessened in any way by what she went through, and I was proud of her for being honest about it and for trying hard to manage it,” she said. “She was no less lovable or deserving of respect because of her challenges, regardless of how those challenges may have come about.”

So often, Jane said, people think this is a illness that affects “others.”

“But we are not others; we’re your next door neighbor, the same hard-working, conscientious parents,” she said.

Jane agreed to put her daughter’s name on the upcoming educational initiative to remind people that the disease “has a face.”

“People need to feel safe from the stigma,” she said. “We stepped up and said, ‘Yes this happened to us.’ It’s time we stop treating it like something left in the dark.”

Anna Straw Initiative:

When: Every Monday night, starting Feb. 2 from 7:00 - 9:00 pm.

About: It will be offered in four two-hour sessions and will be ongoing. The focus will be on addiction as a disease, family impact and rehabilitation, developing a support network and how and when to use Nalaxone (to reverse the life-threatening effects of opiate overdose).

Where: The Presbyterian Church of Deep Run at 16 Irish Meetinghouse Road, Bedminster Township. The council's Family Education Program is also offered in other Bucks locations and in neighboring counties.

To register for the program in Bucks or surrounding counties, call: 1-800-221-6333.

Executive Director Bev Haberle to visit White House for 25th Anniversary of Addiction Recovery Month

Bev Haberle was invited by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) for a special event at the White House on September 17, 2014 to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. Under President Obama’s Administration, supporting persons in recovery from addiction has become a major component of the National Drug Control Strategy.

The event will take place at the White House from 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. on September 17, 2014 and will be live streamed on; please encourage your friends, family members, and persons in recovery community to tune in.  During the event, you can tweet questions for panelists in recovery on stage. To submit your question for consideration on Twitter, tweet at @Botticelli44 using the hashtag #RecoveryatWH at any time prior to or during the event.

Heroin Use in Pennsylvania and New Jersey - The Radio Times Interview

The Council's Public Policy and Family Program Specialist Noni West was featured in a Radio Times interview with Marty Moss-Coane on July 7th about heroin use in Pennsylvania. CLICK HERE to listen to the full interview.


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