By: Robert Hawn

Salem County, NJ – Over the past few years the professional sports community has suffered a number of tragic deaths related to substance abuse. While these losses have brought great sorrow, they have also shed light on an important issue that has the potential to be fatal for our youth athletes.  Sports injuries are a common occurrence for both professional and youth athletes. The emotional and physical toll sports injuries have on athletes leaves them vulnerable to prescription drug misuse. This reality begs the question, “how do we protect our kids from prescription drug misuse?”

The Salem-Cumberland Regional Action Towards Community Health (SCRATCH) Coalition in collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Education, New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, and Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey will address this question and more this Fall at Points Penalties Pills Youth Athlete Conference at Running Deer Golf Club.

Points Penalties Pills will take place on Friday, October 19, from 9:00am to 2:00pm as an extension of Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day, a state-wide opioid misuse prevention initiative that takes place annually in early October.  

Athletic directors, trainers, coaches, school nurses, school administration, and concerned parents and guardians of youth athletes in Salem and Cumberland Counties are encouraged to attend!  There is no cost to attend, however registration is required. Professional Development hours will be given to Salem & Cumberland County school staff in attendance through the Department of Education. Light breakfast & lunch are included, and as additional incentive, Running Deer Golf Club is offering a discounted green fee rate of $20 for 9 holes of golf available after the conference!

Points Penalties Pills will include:

Keynote Speaker & Breakout Presenter - William Lynch - Staff Pharmacist with Jefferson Health System-Cherry Hill Hospital (JHS-CH) "Prescription Drug Abuse: Our National Epidemic" - educating about the real world implications of drug abuse, particularly with students and youth athletes. Bill shares stories from his personal experiences as a pharmacist and coach to teach how to better care for and protect the youth in your life.

Breakout Presenter - Larry White - Executive Director - NJSIAA, Larry addresses youth opioid use from every angle.  Speaking from his experiences as a former youth athlete, coach, and now Executive Director of the New Jersey Interstate Interscholastic Athletic Association to teach best coaching practices.   Larry is poised to addresses athletic departments and trainers on what to consider when an athlete is injured.

Breakout Presenter - Ashley Mallon - Prevention Specialist - Southwest Council, "SPOT IT: Are You Missing The Signs?" - spotting the trending signs of substance abuse can be tricky. Ashley's research and anecdotes provides fresh context to open your eyes to potential abuse, as well as how and why to engage the students for substance abuse prevention, including the personal value of accounting, securing, disposing of your prescription medication.

Points Penalties Pills is one of the many ways the SCRATCH coalition is working to prevent the abuse of addictive substances through strategic community partnerships. Our stakeholders come together monthly and participate in various action workgroups to focus on three areas of misuse: 1) alcohol, 2) marijuana and tobacco, and 3) prescription drugs.

For more information about Points Penalties Pills or to join a substance abuse prevention workgroups contact SCRATCH Coalition Coordinator Donald Noblett (856) 794-1011 ext. 316 or at donald@southwestcouncil.org.  For the latest SCRATCH Coalition updates follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/ScratchCoalition.