Help Support Tiffany After House Fire

Tiffany Hyndman joined the Southwest Council in October 2017, after she and her wife Crystal came through a Strengthening Families Program.  It was while attending the Strengthening Families Program that Tiffany learned about Peer Recovery Coaching at the Southwest Council. Tiffany joined the agency as a part-time recovery coach in the Opioid Overdose Recovery Program (OORP), and has been an integral part of our team ever since!

On July 2, 2018 Tiffany and her family suffered a devastating fire to their home.  Tiffany’s 12-year old son was home alone when he smelled smoke. He was able to get himself and his dog out of the house, but the family’s cat and bird succumbed to the fire. Tiffany and her family lost everything; the entire house was damaged beyond repairs.  Tiffany, Crystal, and their two children Giovanni and Ally must find another location to call home.  

Currently, the primary goal is to secure housing for the family. There will be future outreach efforts for additional items once they get settled. If you would like to support Tiffany's needs you can give a tax deductible gift using through our donate link, be sure to write in "Tiffany Hyndman House Fire" in the notes section to designate the gift and we will be sure it gets to her. 

Account. Secure. Dispose. Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                               July 18, 2018

Media Contact:                                                                                                                                   Ashley Mallon                                                                                                                                      The Southwest Council Inc.                                                                                                               856-794-1011 Ext 318                                                                                                   

Account. Secure. Dispose,” one of the newest community initiatives takes aim at the current drug crisis by educating on medication misuse and abuse, and gives participants proper medication storage and disposal tools to deal with unwanted medications.  

The SCRATCH Prevention Coalition relays a 3-part message to participants - ACCOUNT, SECURE, and DISPOSE of your unwanted medications, and they even provide each participant with tangible tools to do just that. Ashley Mallon, a prevention specialist at the Southwest Council who trains on the initiative states, “This information is so important for the community to hear. Most of the time, we only hear about how bad the drug problem is in our area, but it isn’t often that people provide a solution after they present you with the problem.”

Unfortunately, prescription medications are abused often and can be just as harmful as illegal street drugs if they are not used correctly. Especially considering the staggering reality that prescription pain killers very often leads to heroin use, contributing to the ongoing epidemic that has come to forefront the last few years.

Mallon reports why she feels so strongly about educating the community through this initiative, “I appreciate that “Account, Secure, Dispose,” not only dives into the current drug problem, but then it offers tangible solutions for accounting of medications through med-trackers and securing them with prescription timer caps which act like a stopwatch whenever the lid is opened, and disposing through Deterra pouches which are environmentally friendly.

Just the simple act of cleaning out your medicine cabinet can go a long way to protect your family from accumulating a drug problem and can even make your home safer from those who may have a drug problem or even a curious teen living under their parents roof. 

To date, the SCRATCH Coalition has served over 475 participants with this educational presentation and is currently seeking more opportunities to disperse this essential information. If you believe that this presentation may benefit your organization, your church, your employees, or even your circle of friends, please contact Ashley Mallon at or by phone at 856-794-1011 x318.


 Ashley joined the agency in 2014 and currently serves as the Salem-Cumberland PFS Coordinator. Ashley works closely with community organizations, municipal partners, and families by utilizing environmental strategies and initiatives that will reduce underage drinking and prescription drug abuse. 

Ashley joined the agency in 2014 and currently serves as the Salem-Cumberland PFS Coordinator. Ashley works closely with community organizations, municipal partners, and families by utilizing environmental strategies and initiatives that will reduce underage drinking and prescription drug abuse. 


Don’t Let the JUULs Fool You: The Unglamorous Side to Vaping

By Bethany Vega

Vaping is the hit new thing right now. Through advertising as a healthier option to smoking and offering users different flavors, Vaping usage is on rise.  Vaping is not only an alternative to smoking, but is becoming a trend through users creating different blow talents. We must stop and ask ourselves is this really a healthier option? What’s really in there? 

The first thing we should look at is the “healthier option” to smoking. How true is that? Not at all true, in fact, many of the same cancer causing ingredients in tobacco products are found in vapes such as: nicotine, propylene glycol, lead, nickel, and tin. While some companies say they are nicotine free there are still the other unhealthy chemicals going into the user’s body. 

At least the flavors are all natural, or so one may think. The truth is not all of the flavoring is natural, and while some flavors are listed as safe for consumption, it is not intended to be inhaled directly into our lungs. There are still studies being done to determine the harmful effects of inhaling these flavors into the lungs. One of the chemicals found in e-liquids is called diacetyl. Diacetyl has been linked to a serious lung disease known as Bronchiolitis Obliterations or “popcorn lung”, a condition of irreversible inflammation and scarring in the lungs. 

In November of 2017 a new law passed in New Jersey raising the age requirement for purchase and usage of tobacco products to 21 years old from the previous 19 year old requirement. Since 2014, when e-cigarettes and vapes hit the market, tobacco usage has decreased in middle and high school students. However, the usage of e-cigarettes and vapes has increased. Despite the new law, youth continue to partake in vaping and using e-cigarettes. 

 The vaping market has changed over time creating vapes that are smaller and more discreet making it easy for youth to sneak these items into schools. Youth are using these not only for vaping, but also “one hitters” for marijuana. Some vapes can look like pens, or everyday school items. One of the more popular and recent ones on the market, the “JUUL”, looks like a flash drive. On the website JUUL uses the line, “The Smoking Alternative, unlike any E-Cigarette or Vape…”. The JUUL is so popular among youth that Business Insider commented, “Among teens, the Juul is not just a noun. It’s also a verb.” This is something taking youth by storm.

The Southwest Council offers presentations to adults 18 and older, one of them being a presentation on vaping. We include several vaping items, activities to test your knowledge, and the latest information in our vaping presentations. If you are interested in having a presentation, please reach out to the Southwest Council at (856)-794-1011 or visit us online at

 Beth has been with the Southwest Council, Inc. since 2016 and serves as an Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Prevention Specialist. Beth provides evidence-based school and community-wide programs in Gloucester County.

Beth has been with the Southwest Council, Inc. since 2016 and serves as an Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Prevention Specialist. Beth provides evidence-based school and community-wide programs in Gloucester County.


The SCRATCH Coalition Is At It Again!!

By: Robert Hawn


The Southwest council is taking the neighborhood by storm as the SCRATCH Coalition has added not one, but two brand new outdoor recreation ordinances. These get added to an already impressive list of existing ordinances; giving now seven total in Cumberland County alone.

Early 2018 has been a busy time for the coalition as well as the county as they introduced brand new ordinances in both Maurice River and Millville Townships. Since the age of sale of all tobacco products was raised from 19 to 21 in November 2017, the SCRATCH Coalition has been working collaboratively with Tobacco Free for a Healthy New Jersey, Inspira's Region 10 Cancer and Chronic Disease Coalition, Millville LINK, and Cumberland County Positive Youth Development Coalition connecting with municipalities who have not yet passed Outdoor Recreation Ordinances in the county.


 In March, Maurice River Township amended Ordinance NO.671- Section 3-5. This ordinance was passed to ban the use all tobacco products including E- cigarettes in all recreation areas such as parks and all baseball fields. SCRATCH has also partnered up with New Jersey Prevention Network to post educational signage in all baseball dugouts just in time for this current baseball season. This Ordinance was put into effect on March 15, 2018.

More recently, the city of Millville has passed the amending of Ordinance NO.17-2018. This came after two Millville high school students Jared Kinlaw (10th grade) and Brianna Messier (11th grade) spoke out at a Millville City Council Working Session in March. The students presented their cases as to why they are passionate about seeing tobacco free areas in Millville.  Commissioners had no choice but to unanimously pass this new Outdoor Recreational Ordinance banning the use of all tobacco products including e-cigarettes on city properties including city parks and City Hall beginning on April 27, 2018.

  Millville Junior Brianna Messier presenting at a Millville City Council Working Session in March 2018 about the reasons why she is passionate about seeing smoke free places in Millville.

Millville Junior Brianna Messier presenting at a Millville City Council Working Session in March 2018 about the reasons why she is passionate about seeing smoke free places in Millville.

  Left to right: Millville LINK’s Chelsea Santiago, Tobacco Free for a Healthy NJ’s Kim Burns, Millville Mayor Michael Santiago, Millville Officer Rick Kott, and SCRATCH Coalition Coordinator Donald Noblett

Left to right: Millville LINK’s Chelsea Santiago, Tobacco Free for a Healthy NJ’s Kim Burns, Millville Mayor Michael Santiago, Millville Officer Rick Kott, and SCRATCH Coalition Coordinator Donald Noblett


A lot of people wonder exactly why these ordinances are passed because they believe the common misconception that second hand smoke can’t kill people. Well, according to American Lung Association, secondhand smoke is responsible for more than 41,000 deaths per year. That’s a scary statistic because of the fact of how easily it can be prevented. Now, this isn’t a PSA against people who smoke because even though it’s a nasty habit, it is understandable that it is an addiction that is hard to shake. This is simply serving as plea to care about protecting youth & preventing youth substance abuse use. Make it a priority to make the community better by not smoking in places filled with innocent children.  Simply care because Ordinances like these create healthy communities for our families to live, work, and play.


If you live in a municipality that has not yet passed an Outdoor Recreational Ordinance and you would like more information on the benefits of doing so, please contact SCRATCH Coalition Coordinator Donald Noblett.  (856) 794-1011 ext. 316

It's Not Worth The Risk.

By Maggie Fye

In a few weeks, it will be four years ago that my two year old daughter, Catey, was poisoned by a prescription medication called Amitriptyline. My daughter’s survival was nothing short of a miracle, and her poisoning was very much preventable. 

In May 2014, I came home to my daughter asleep on the floor in her bedroom making some strange sounds. When I went to check on her, she was beginning to have seizures, which she had never had before. When I pulled back the blankets, I realized that she had taken my prescription bottle of amitriptyline from my night stand. 

This particular medication is extremely toxic, especially to small children, yet ironically looks very similar to candy to a child and has a sweet-tasting coating. My daughter sucked the sweet coating off of these pills and spit them out when they became bitter, however, this medication is one of a list of medications that can be fatal in one dose to a small child. 

I knew this was bad, but I had no idea how bad. I could barely physically hold onto my daughter as I ran with her into the emergency room because of the seizures. She was making noises that I had never heard any human make before. My precious little daughter, my first child, who had been perfectly healthy only hours before, was unconscious, seizing and now could not breathe and needed to be intubated. 

I remember when the Life Flight technician was preparing her for the flight, she stopped seizing momentarily and her eyes opened. He said to her, “oh, there you are” but as her mom, I could see there was nothing there. The was no life behind her eyes. She had never been away from me and now, she was intubated and they were going to fly away with her, and there was no room on the aircraft for me. 

Catey was admitted to a pediatric intensive care unit, and she was placed on a ventilator. She was medically sedated and the specialists at that hospital prepared me for her inevitable death. They said that in over 20 years, they had never had a non-fatal outcome in a pediatric TCA (tri-cyclic antidepressant) overdose. They went on to advise me that they would be bringing in life support, for WHEN, not IF, she went into cardiac arrest. Her organs were too small and would be damaged by any efforts at resuscitation.

So then we waited. Waited for her to go into cardiac arrest. Waited for her to die. I am sure it was not easy for the specialists to tell me that my child was going to die. The thought of losing my beautiful daughter because we had been so careless by leaving something I now know to be so very toxic, accessible to little hands, brought me to my knees. I could not hold her, and as the hours, then days, passed. Her body, which should have been up, doing ballerina twirls, was bloated and stiff. Her laughter was silenced. There were no hugs, no sloppy kisses, no sticky hands. She was gone, and I could have prevented all of it. 

Unbeknownst to me, the staff at the hospital called in an abuse report to Child Protective Services, since they did not know I was not home at the time, as she was under the care of my now-ex-husband. When Child Protective Services and the police came, I was advised that until the conclusion of their investigation I was prohibited from being alone with my own daughters and any other children. Now I faced losing my younger daughter, as well. As someone who took pride in being a good mother, this was like a punch to the gut. It took everything within me to be reminded that they were only doing their job. 


On the fourth day, incredibly, Catey had not yet gone into cardiac arrest. Her body had processed enough of the toxins that they were able to slowly reverse her induced coma to try to wake her. They removed the ventilator and she eventually moved into a regular pediatric hospital room. Child Protective Services were able to sort through the facts and lifted the restriction placed on me. They concluded it as an accident, and I was cleared of any child abuse or neglect. My daughter was released to my care upon her discharge. 

The reality is that my daughter’s survival was against all odds, it was a miracle. The fact is, that this could have so easily been prevented. I knew, or thought I knew, about home safety. I did not realize just how dangerous unsecured medications are. 

I am one of many parents who have faced the consequences of failing to realize that unsecured medication, in little hands, can be as deadly. Every day in the United States, approximately four bus loads of children are seen in emergency rooms for accidental medication ingestion, and half of all poison exposures are children ages 6 and under. No family should ever have to experience the pain of such a preventable tragedy and most families are not as fortunate as we were in her survival. I have since made it my mission to honor the gift of her life, of getting a second chance despite all the odds, by sharing our story and educating others, who like me, never gave it that much thought. 

In my efforts to transform this life-changing near-tragedy into an opportunity for help and hope, I connected as a parent with my local substance abuse prevention coalition, Cumberland County Healthy Communities Coalition (CCHCC). I now serve as the Vice Chair of CCHCC, a role I am proud of. I’m honored to work with such a fantastic team of community partners who are just as passionate about substance abuse education and prevention, as well as creating a safe and healthy community for all of us. 

As part of CCHCC, I have had the opportunity to offer an educational workshop we created called, “Account. Secure. Dispose.” This well-received workshop includes the how and why for proper accounting, securing and disposing of medications. Participants are provided with a MedTracker, a Timer Cap for prescription bottles, and Deterra drug deactivation pouches to ensure they not only have the know-how, but the resources as well to begin to Account. Secure. Dispose. Contact our coalition to join our efforts or to learn more about our initiatives.

In the approximately 15 months we have been partnering with Inspira to resource the community with Account. Secure. Dispose., we have distributed more than 27,000 Deterra pouches to neutralize the components of unwanted medications, rendering them inert and ready for biodegrade disposal in regular household trash; without the worry of potential misuse, accidents, abuse, theft, or introducing harmful or even lethal chemicals into the environment. 

This was preventable in my home and it is preventable in your home. It is not worth the risk. Let’s all begin to Account. Secure. Dispose. and make our community safer and healthier. 

 Maggie Fye serves as the Co-chair of the CCHCC prevention coalition 

Maggie Fye serves as the Co-chair of the CCHCC prevention coalition 


Medicine Drop Box To Be At The Next CCIA Hazardous Waste Event

Cumberland County, NJ –  912,000, that is the number of pounds of prescription drugs Americans turned in last Fall at more than 9,600 sites DEA, state and local law enforcement partners. The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office, the SCRATCH & CCHCC Coalitions, and the Cumberland County Improvement Authority urges residents of Cumberland to bring their unwanted medication for disposal to participating drop box sites and police stations in their township. The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.

The next Household Hazardous Waste event at the CCIA will be on Saturday, April 21, 2018 from 8 am - 2 pm at the Cumberland County Improvement Authority located at 169 Jesse Bridge Road in Rosenhayn. The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department Mobile Prescription Drop Box will be there, and at all of the 2018 Cumberland County Household Hazardous Waste events!

Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs.  Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. The usual methods for disposing of unused medicines—flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—both pose potential safety and health hazards. 

“Increasingly people are becoming aware of the risks of prescription medication,” said the Coalition Director Matthew Rudd, “and the more people become aware, the more success we are having in disposing of potentially abused drugs.”


Additionally, the following Saturday, April 28 is an official Drug Take Back Day sponsored by the DEA. Overall, in its 14 previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners have taken in more than 9 million pounds of pills. For more information about the disposal of prescription drugs, locations for disposal, or about the April 28th Take Back Day event, go to the DEA Diversion website.

Cumberland County residents can dispose of unneeded and expired medications and keep them away from those at risk of abusing them. A Drop Box can accept solid pharmaceuticals such as pills, capsules, patches, inhalers and pet medications. There is no limit. Contact the Sheriff’s Department at 856-451-4449 or visit their website or if you need additional information on the CCIA Household Hazardous Waste event access this link.


A PSA For Athletes

By: Robert Hawn

Over the past few years, the Major League Baseball community lost many great faces of the game. The two that stick out the most to me are the deaths of former Cy Young award winner Roy “Doc” Halladay and the 24-year-old former Rookie of the year winner, Jose Fernandez. 

Although there have been a lot of men and women from the beloved sports world that have passed away recently, these two stand out to me because they are the most relatable. Yes, they are household names but, it makes an athlete think, “Hey, that could happen to me.”


For those who do not know, Roy Halladay lost his life in November of 2017 after the plane he was flying crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. It was originally reported that blunt force trauma and drowning were ruled the causes of death, however the toxicology report stated that Halladay had a high amount of Morphine in his system. There were also trace amounts of Amphetamines that totaled up to1800 ng/ml, nearly three times the average overdose limit.  Amphetamines are commonly used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) but, could also be used to occasionally treat adults with Narcolepsy or Depression. However, if used incorrectly, an overdose of Amphetamines could result in hallucinations, restlessness and cardiac arrest which could potentially explain how Halladay lost control of the plane. It is fair to say that Halladay was using this combination of Opioids and Stimulants as an escape from the wear and tear that his exhausting 16-year baseball career left him. 

Fernandez on the other hand, who at the time was fighting with his girlfriend, became frustrated and depressed and decided to go for a late-night cruise on his fishing vessel. A few friends accompanied the star as he needed to blow off some steam. Unfortunately, that was the last trip they took as around 3 AM the boat struck a jetty right off the coast of Miami and killed everyone on board. The toxicology report later read that the MLB star, who was behind the wheel, had a large amount of cocaine and alcohol in his system.

The deaths of these stars have brought great sorrow to the world, but they have also brought a very important message to kids. The big picture here is that both men were going through some emotional distress. Whether it was depression, anger, or maybe dealing with injuries, the athletes resorted to looking for an escape that inevitably took their lives.

Although heartbreaking, this could act as a public service announcement that would make the public aware that no one person is indestructible. If this could happen to our pro athletes, imagine how this could be affecting our youth athletes.   

As a former three sport athlete and now coach, it is reasonable to say that this is something that could impact the lives of many other athletes. Regardless of the sport, there are many factors which can cause an athlete to experience stress or anxiety. The commitment of long seasons and daily practices cause constant wear and tear on an athlete’s body. The physical and psychological demands, paired with constant expectations of perfection, could be enough to push certain players past their limits. All these factors could go a long way in potentially causing stress and depression in their lives. 


The idea of being a perfect student as well as the star athlete is manageable for some, but it is still a substantial amount of work, having the potential to lead kids down the wrong path. When pressures to perform are taking over an individual’s life, it is common for those individuals to try to find ways to ease the pain. That being said, it is important to understand that neither drugs nor alcohol are the answer.

I am sure that you are currently asking the question “Why does this matter to me?” and the answer is ALL athletes no matter the age, gender, or athletic ability deal with their own form of stress or pain. It is important to find a way to deal with it properly without harming themselves or their loved ones.

If you or a loved one is currently suffering from emotional distress and resorting to substance abuse, please feel free to contact us here at The Southwest Council.

For more information on how to identify this distress and help athletes; please attend our Points, Penalties and Pills conference that is taking place on Friday, February 23rd 2018 from 9am-1pm at Rowan College at Gloucester County.

 Rob is a Prevention Specialist with The Southwest Council

Rob is a Prevention Specialist with The Southwest Council


Woodbury Heights Police Department Acquires Permanent Prescription Drop Box

Those wishing to dispose of unused, unwanted, and expired medications in the Woodbury Heights area now have a new disposal site at the Woodbury Heights Police Department. The Gloucester Regional Addictive Substances Prevention (GRASP) coalition awarded the department with an American Medicine Chest Challenge permanent prescription drop box as a partner in curbing prescription drug abuse. The box is located inside the Woodbury Heights Police Department at 500 Elm Ave, Woodbury Heights, NJ 08097. It will be available to the public during normal business hours or when a police officer is present at the station.  For additional information, residents may contact the police department at 856-848-6707 or visit for additional information.

Names from LEFT to RIGHT are:  Patrolman Richard Gambale, Tara Clay of the GRASP coalition, Candice Carter of the GRASP coalition, Acting Police Chief, Joshua Moline, and Patrolman Ben Grasso.

Woodbury Heights Acting Police Chief Joshua Moline worked with Candice Carter and Tara Clay of the GRASP Coalition, to provide the prescription drop box to the Woodbury Heights community.  When asked what motivated them to obtain a prescription drop box, Acting Police Chief Joshua Moline stated, “The drug box is part of an effort to reduce access to prescription drugs for teenagers. Unused and out-of-date medicines are also dangerous because of the chance of theft and misuse. Additionally, flushing medications down the sink or toilet can contaminate the water supply." 

With the installation of this drop box, the department adds an additional resource to the fight against drug abuse and especially the opiate crisis.  The department invites residents, businesses, and other partners in the community program to use the drop box to prevent dangerous medications from falling into the hands of children or people suffering from addiction.  

Woodbury Heights Police Department and the GRASP coalition challenges families to take the Five-Step American Medicine Chest Challenge:

  • Account - Take inventory of your prescription and over-the counter medicine.
  • Secure - your medicine chest and prescription drugs.
  • Dispose - of your unused, unwanted, and expired medicine in your home or at an American Medicine Chest Challenge Disposal site.
  • Take - your medicine(s) exactly as prescribed.
  • Talk - to the children in your life about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

Permanent drop boxes and the awareness campaigns surrounding them are an important part of reducing the abuse of prescription medication.  When left around the house, unused or expired prescription medications are a public safety issue, leading to abuse, environmental harm and accidental poisoning.  2 in 5 teenagers believe prescription drugs are “much safer” than illegal drugs.  Every day in the U.S. an estimated 2,500 youth take a prescription pain reliever for the purpose of getting high for the first time.  The abuse of prescription pain killers is the leading cause of heroin abuse.  Unused drugs that are flushed can also contaminate the water supply, thus proper disposal of prescription drugs does duel duty of saving lives and protecting the environment.  

The prescription drop box was purchased by the GRASP coalition, a substance abuse prevention coalition.  For more information about GRASP and how to get involved, please visit or call 856-494-4950.





Gloucester County, NJ - On Friday, February 23, from 9:00am to 1:00pm Gloucester Regional Addictive Substance Prevention (GRASP) Coalition will be hosting at Rowan College of Gloucester County a youth athletic conference entitled “POINTS PENALTIES PILLS” aimed at addressing the opioid epidemic and the effects on student athletes.  

GRASP is encouraging all Athletic Directors, Athletic Trainers, School Personnel, Parents/Guardians in Gloucester County to attend this event. The day will consist of expert practitioners, solutions oriented workshops, and an engaging panel discussion. This is a free event that only requires prior registration to attend. For those who request it, CEU hours will be given. 

The inception of the conference came from the GRASP prescription/heroin committee as they worked together to bring solutions to prevent prescription drug abuse and collaborated with The New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) and New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. Ave Altersitz, Executive County Superintendent of Gloucester County, became involved as a part of the DOE’s commitment to the students in Gloucester County: Too many young athletes are losing their lives to addiction. It's important that parents and school employees are educated about the overprescribing of opioids and the signs of addiction. Our children's lives depend on this knowledge.”

The conference is one of the many ways the GRASP coalition works to help educate and spread awareness consistent with the coalition’s mission of preventing the abuse of addictive substances through strategic community partnerships. Our stakeholders come together once a month and participate in various subcommittees that representing our three areas of focus: 1) alcohol abuse/underage drinking, 2) marijuana and tobacco, 3) prescription drugs and heroin.


4th Annual Tree of Hope Coffeehouse

We are excited about our upcoming 4th Annual Tree of Hope, which will take place from 6-8pm on Friday, December 1st at the Cumberland County Community Churchin Millville, NJ! After the success of last year’s Tree of Hope Coffeehouse Fundraiser, the Southwest Council will again host this fundraising event in a coffeehouse format. Tree of Hope partners with numerous artists, organizations, treatment facilities, and the larger community to raise funds for local Recovery Support Services. 

Tree of Hope seeks to achieve several objectives:

1st objective: to celebrate our local recovery community and commemorate lives lost to the disease of addiction.

2nd objective: to raise awareness about and funds for local Recovery Support Services

3rd objective: to create connection and combat stigma, while spreading the message that recovery is possible and worthy of supporting! 

Tree of Hope creates a warm, hospitable atmosphere with live music, coffee, food, and a place to come together in celebration as we aspire to be a healthy and whole community free from substance abuse addiction. A unique element of Tree of Hope is the musical artists who carry the tenor of the night. The program is designed primarily around music and letting the commonality of music add to the anthem of recovery. At this year’s Tree of Hope we will publicly install 14 newly trained peer recovery coaches! 

There are two ways we are asking for support: 

Share: spread the word about the coffeehouse for a sober, fun Friday night event! 

Give: in some meaningful way; whether money, time or offer your talents.

While there is no fee to attend the coffeehouse, registering for a ticket will help give an accurate headcount. All voluntary donations benefit support recovery services, like sustaining the volunteer recovery coaches. Attendees can donate by purchasing commemorative ornaments to write names of their loved ones  to honor those suffering from addiction, in recovery, or whose lives were lost to overdose. There will also be additional opportunities to give throughout the night. 

We hope you will join us!

Flu Shots & Fall Cleaning


October 5, 2017

In an effort to prevent the misuse of prescription drugs, the SCRATCH & CCHCC Coalitions have partnered with the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s office, as well the Cumberland County Department of Health to provide a safe medication disposal site at a number of the flu clinic locations this season.

Project Medicine Drop is an important part of the solution to help reduce substance abuse within our area by providing a safe, secure location to dispose of unwanted medications. It is well known that the abuse of prescription painkillers can be every bit as dangerous as the abuse of illegal drugs such as heroin, so we are asking our community members to clear out their medicine cabinets of any unwanted prescription drugs to help reduce substance abuse within our community. 

The following dates will serve as flu clinic dates, and community members are encouraged to do some Fall cleaning and bring all unwanted medications to the site where the Sheriff's Department will be on hand with a mobile dropbox to collect and properly dispose of the medications.:

Friday, October 27th 10am-noon DRIVE-THROUGH FLU

Millville Rescue Squad

600 Cedar St.

Millville, NJ 08332


Tuesday, November 14th 10am-noon

West Park United Methodist Church

625 Shiloh Pike

Bridgeton, NJ 08302

Proper medication disposal is just one of the many initiatives of the Southwest Council Coalitions whose aim is to reduce substance abuse within Cumberland, Salem, and Gloucester counties. Contact Matthew Rudd, Director of Coalitions and Communication for more information about our organization and how we can better serve you. 856-794-1011 x302 or by email at


Healing or Dealing?

After many years of successful mooching, I recently bought a house. Much to my disappointment, the bills have started to roll in and they’re all in MY name. Needless to say, Netflix documentaries have become my singular source of entertainment (read: I’m using my dad’s Netflix account to avoid a cable bill). This weekend, I watched a particularly relevant docu-drama called Dr. Feelgood which took on the prescription painkiller epidemic and targeted Dr. William Hurwitz, the doctor convicted of narcotics distribution for over-prescribing opiate medication in Virginia.

It turns out, asking physicians to share in the responsibility of preventing prescription drug abuse is not new to the current epidemic. The case of Dr. Hurwitz is an interesting one; he was a physician working with patients in chronic pain, and prescribing alarming doses of narcotic pain medication to these patients. Dr. Hurwitz was aware of the tolerance which builds from narcotics, and would account for this by prescribing higher doses.  For one patient, Dr. Hurwitz was prescribing more than 1,600 pills. Per day.

My recent move and financial frugality (thanks, dad) actually created space for some valuable research questions (you’re welcome, Joe). Should Dr. Hurwitz and others like him be held liable for this kind of prescribing of narcotics? Who is actually to blame for the role prescription medication plays in the heroin epidemic? How should physicians treat the one-in-three people who experience chronic pain?

“Of course he should be held accountable, Jackie!” I can hear you yelling at your computer screen. “1,600 pills per day for one person is criminal!”

Sure, a thousand plus pills per day is probably irresponsible prescribing, but let’s take a closer look at Dr. Hurwtiz’s attitude toward chronic pain and the context for narcotic medication in the 90’s.

First of all, there is no test to verify pain. Physicians ask patients to scale from one to ten the intensity of their pain, but there’s no objective measurement to prove this patient is truly an eight on the scale.  Doctors have an ethical responsibility to do no harm, and allowing a patient to stay at an eight on the pain scale seems to creep into harmful territory. “But, they could be lying! What if they aren’t in pain and they are drug seeking! What if their ten isn’t really a ten?!”

I hear you yelling.

It’s complicated. For a clinician specializing in substance use disorders, any hint at drug seeking behavior becomes therapeutic fodder. For a chronic pain specialist like Dr. Hurwitz, an eight on this scale becomes an assumption of a pretty uncomfortable patient.  Dose is irrelevant” Hurwitz defended. “The right dose is whatever produces tolerable side effects."

It gets even more complicated. In a 1986 groundbreaking study by Portenoy and Foley, 38 patients on opioid analgesics for non-malignant pain were studied to determine if this course of treatment was safe and effective. This study, which is cited often in this debate, found that opioid maintenance therapy is not only safe but a “more humane alternative to the options of surgery or no treatment in patients with intractable non-malignant pain and no history of drug abuse” (Portenoy & Foley, 1986). By the time Dr. Hurwitz got settled in his career, narcotic medication was the gold standard for pain management.

It gets even more complicated. Opiates are incredibly effective in relieving pain, and have always had social consequences. A response to “Narcomania,” the 1914 Harrison Narcotics Tax Act essentially forbid the use of opioid medication except in very extreme circumstances. Portenoy’s 1986 paper reassured the community that fears of addiction caused by prescription opioids were unfounded, and that no dose is too high. Thirty years later and wiser, the Federal government issued guidelines recommending opiates be prescribed for no more than 3-7 days (CDC, 2016). It seems that the metaphoric jury is still out about how to responsibly treat chronic pain, and what (if any) role opioid medication should play.

It gets even more complicated. The case against Hurwtiz accuses the doc of prescribing large doses and quantities of narcotic medication, with the express knowledge that his patients were selling, at least in part, their prescription pills. “He crossed the line from a healer to a dealer,” remarked Assistant U.S. Attorney Gene Rossi during his closing arguments on April 18, 2007. At least twelve of Hurwitz’s former patients were convicted of drug crimes as of his 2007 trial.  Hurwitz was sentenced to 25 years in prison, which was ultimately overturned (though he was stripped of his medical license).

This part is less complicated. We know more now than we did in the 90’s and we’ve learned a great deal since Portenoy’s 1986 study of 38 pain sufferers. We know that for every one-in-three chronic pain sufferers there are four-in-five heroin users who started with the misuse of prescription pills (ASAM, 2016). We know that drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, and we know that the opioid epidemic is the driving force behind these overdoses (MMWR Wkly Rep, 2016).  We know that more than 20 million Americans suffer from a substance use disorder. We know that prescription drug overdose deaths have tripled over the last few years (ASAM, 2016), and we know that these overdose deaths are trending upwards, not down.

We know we have to do something.

With this new information comes a spirit of collaboration among mental health and addiction professionals, physicians, and the community at large. Responsible prescribing and education about what it means to truly “do no harm” are important pieces of a very large and multifaceted puzzle. Conversation, education, and yes, maybe even Netflix documentaries, are vital to this fight against the opioid epidemic.

 Jackie Williams,   Clinical Services Coordinator

Jackie Williams, 

Clinical Services Coordinator


'Hidden in Plain Sight' returns to Salem County

By Donald Noblett

WOODSTOWN -- The SCRATCH Coalition and Salem County Municipal Alliances for Prevention of Substance Abuse (MAPSA) have partnered to bring another Hidden In Plain Sight awareness presentation to Salem County on Thursday, April 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Salem County Vocational Technical School, 880 Route 45, Woodstown.

Hidden in Plain Sight seeks to educate parents, educators, youth workers and other adults about the latest drug trends. It also teaches participants how to spot potential inappropriate youth behaviors that could be taking place right in their own towns.  Participants walk through a mock teenager's bedroom doing their best to spot any item that could indicate inappropriate youth behaviors. There are over 70 items to identify, which may come as a challenge to some participants. Learning how to spot the signs of potential substance abuse empowers local families to proactively protect their homes and loved ones.

Live Healthy Salem County is generously sponsoring the event after adopting it as their spring substance abuse initiative. Cumberland County MAPSA Coordinator Ashleigh Huff and Sgt. Elliot Hernandez from the Salem County Prosecutor's Office will facilitate the two-hour presentation. 

"The SCRATCH Coalition is excited to bring this presentation back to Salem County," said Donald Noblett. "Requests for the Hidden In Plain Sight presentation have continued to come up as I work alongside individuals living and working in Salem County. I encourage any adult to attend the eye-opening program."  

RSVP if you plan on attending, or direct any questions about the Hidden In Plain Sight presentation to Donald Noblett, SCRATCH Coalition Coordinator, donald@southwestcouncil.org856-794-1011, ext. 316,

To plan your own Hidden In Plain Sight event contact: Ashleigh Huff, Cumberland County MAPSA Coordinator at or call 856-459-3082.

The Importance of Vaping Education

By Michael Regenelli

Vaping and electronic cigarettes
have become an increasingly common sight over the past few years, yet many people, parents and teachers included, don’t know much about them. The CCHCC and Southwest Council Coalitions will seek to address this by providing brief trainings regarding vaping to school personnel and parents. Our first training was held at CCHCC’s meeting on November 14.

These 20-30 minute trainings begin with a brief history on the origin of vaping. Next, current information about vaping devices and how they work is provided. Attendees have an opportunity to gain hands on experience with identifying various kinds of vaporizers. The training also explores the growing trend of vaporizers being used with drugs other than standard nicotine solu- tions; most commonly marijuana extracts. Finally, the presentations address myths and facts surrounding vaping.

Participants can expect to leave the presentation equipped to answer questions about the health effects of vaping, and signs that a student or child is vaping, as well as laws surrounding vaporizers and their use. The Southwest Council coalitions plan to offer this training to school systems as part of in service training hours. The goal will be to increase staff members’ ability to combat student vaping. For more information about these presentations and their availability, please contact Michael Regenelli (856) 794 -1011 ext. 303, Donald Noblett (856) 794-1011 ext. 316, or Candice Carter (856) 494-4950 ext 16.


Joseph Williams, 

By Alexis Regenelli

A quarter of a century ago, The Southwest Council was established to provide prevention services to the communities of southwestern New Jersey. We are proud to say that our Executive Director, Joseph Williams, is also celebrating 25 years with the council this month. The staff & Board of Directors wish to thank Joe Williams for his 25 years of service to the community!

Following is an expression of Joe’s pride in The Southwest Council.

“Since 1991, The Southwest Council has been providing substance abuse prevention, education, and early intervention services to the residents of Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem Counties.

The agency’s positive impact has been made possible only through the efforts of dedicated individuals, including our volunteer Executive Board of Direc- tors, our staff, and the many volunteers who assist us on a daily basis.

The Southwest Council is committed to growth and expansion based on the needs of the communities we serve. We have extended our services over the past several years to include regionally based coalitions. These coalitions have enhanced our capacity to focus on parents, military families, and older Americans through increased prevention services. The success of our grassroots coalition efforts would not be possible without the agency’s dedicated staff and the engagement of individual community members.

Through the collaborative efforts of many, we have been able to provide evidence-based services to schools, colleges, faith-based organizations, families, individuals, community alliances, professionals, and more. It is the focus of the agency to employ environmental strategies geared toward changing community norms which favor substance abuse throughout the southwestern portion of the State of New Jersey. 

Along with the coalitions, the agency has added treatment services which have allowed us to provide quality services throughout the region. Our sustainability plan included the purchase of our own building and expansion in the central part of Gloucester County with fully-staffed offices located in Mantua, New Jersey. We are proud of the dedicated staff who embrace our mission as we hold true to our vision! We will continue to provide employees - with the highest skill and experience - to teach, counsel and assist those who call upon us for ser- vices. Our work is not complete. We are committed to expanding services where the need is great. We will foster partnerships that enhance our goal, and we will ensure that the services provided are of the highest quality possible. Moving forward, we will continue to provide science-based programs, quality treatment services, and effective community-based efforts to meet the needs of the community. We truly hope we can count on your support in the coming years. ”

3rd Annual Tree of Hope

By Matthew Rudd

For the third year in a row, The Southwest Council, Inc. hosted its annual Tree of Hope Coffeehouse Event. Tree of Hope celebrates freedom from addiction, encourages individuals who are in recovery, and commemorates those who have lost their lives to overdose. It also serves as an opportunity to renew the passion of those working in the field of addiction services during the holiday season. This year’s coffeehouse featured refreshments, live music, personal stories, and information about resources available to the community.

About 150 people attended the event including various members of the local government; Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb -McCrae, and Freeholder Director Joe Derella. Both Webb-McCrae and Derella spoke on the need for continued gatherings of this type. They also discussed the importance of incorporating the recovery community into efforts of prevention.

There was no fee to attend the coffeehouse; with voluntary donations collected to support recovery services in the area. Commemorative ornaments were available for individuals to write names of their loved ones either suffering from addiction, in recovery, or whose lives were lost to overdose.

We would like to extend a special thanks to the following organizations who participated and collaborated with The Southwest Council in the planning and implementation of the event: Hendricks House, Recovery Unplugged, Cumberland Recovery Support Services Task Force, Behavioral Crossroads, Recovery Centers of America, and especially Cum- berland County Community Church in Millville for providing the venue. Stay tuned in 20107 for info. about next year’s Tree of Hope!