Vernon Coalition shows appreciation

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  • PHOTOS BY VERA OLINSKI Becky Carlson speaks of the importance of the youth.

  • Rylee Smaldone leads attendees through an activity.

  • Becky Carlson speaks of the importance of the youth.

SUSSEX BOROUGH — Around 50 Vernon Coalition members and dignitaries were honored, Oct. 1, at the Vernon Coalition Appreciation Dinner. Dinner was served by the Lamp Post Inn of Sussex.

Vernon Coalition Youth Coordinator Christine Grimaldi thanked the room for helping them in their mission to reduce substance abuse among youth and create a stronger Vernon and community.

Vernon Coalition student Rylee Smaldone, along with other students, encouraged attendees to answer what is the most important component to building a stronger Vernon.

Members responded with answers such as, “Teamwork, a community without drugs, and parental involvement.” Smaldone respectfully disagreed and said, “YOU,” are the answer.

Vernon Coalition Senior Coordinator Rebecca Dorney said four of the student participants had attended a leadership conference during the summer and would attend another in the near future. She continued, they just need to give students the strength and support to come together as an entire school and community.

N.J. Senator Steve Oroho spoke of how important the subject of youth substance use and abuse was; and commented, “We all know people who we've lost because of this.” He reminded attendees to talk with youth and commended the coalition about educating people through bringing families together for family activities.

N.J. Assemblyman Hal Wirths thanked everyone in the room for their community involvement, including law enforcement, the board of education, Mayor Harry Shortway, radio station, small business, large businesses, along with the Lamp Post Inn owner Sal Santonello. He commented about the horrible opioid epidemic problem facing the state and country, “This is a real problem – it's killing tens of thousands of people.”

Sussex County Prosecutor Francis Koch confirmed Wirths' comments by saying in 2016: 64 K Americans died from an overdose death — 175 people a day; and in 2017: 72K-197 people a day. He continued, in each of those years, more people died from overdose deaths than the 58K Americans who died during the entire Vietnam conflict and war.

Candidly Koch said the epidemic started with pharmaceutical, when they lied to doctors about over-prescribing opioids, saying it was a miracle drug and not addictive. Instead of curing all ills, Koch said, it caused all these problems.

Koch said the N.J. state law reducing opioid prescriptions from 30 to five days was so important, because the average human brain becomes addicted within 20 days.

He concluded, they need to make it prevention, because prevention is “a thousand times cheaper and a million times easier than getting someone into recovery.” Recovery is possible, Koch said, but preventing people from substance abuse disorders is key.

The Executive Director for the Center for Prevention and Counseling Becky Carlson said she was excited about the many people present and how the coalition keeps growing. She remembered Vernon Coalition's beginning in 2010 when 12 people gathered together after the overdose deaths of five young people from the same graduating class. She recognized two of the original 12 who also attended the dinner: Janet Kubik and Jeanne Buffalino.

Carlson continued, the recent community survey showed the numbers are coming down, and there is a lot of awareness and community involvement. Her answer to building a stronger Vernon, she said, was the youth, along with all the different sectors being involved throughout the year.

Vernon Township Police Department Captain Dan Young spoke of underage drinking, reminding everyone that they are all role models, as young people watch them all the time.

He explained there are three types of parents regarding alcohol: absolutely no alcohol allowed; drink and learn in the home; and drink as much as wanted.

Young reminded everyone to always know where their kids are, and what they are doing. In addition, he suggested knowing their kids' friends and communicating with their kids' friends' parents.

He also suggested ground rules for parties like: no alcohol, know who is coming, and do not post the party on social media. Young recommended being home for the party — close enough to see what's happening, but far enough away to give space. In addition, he said, if someone appears drunk or sick, call the parents or other help immediately.

Additional recommendations included: controlling the availability of alcohol in the home — locking it up and preventing easy access, and paying attention to one's children, including on social media.

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