April is Alcohol Awareness Month
Scan the headlines today and one cannot miss that there is a very troublesome and horrific heroin epidemic occurring throughout the region including Sussex County. Perhaps gone unnoticed, however, is the continuing struggle of our friends, families, and loved ones with alcohol and alcohol-related problems.
The Sussex County Department of Health & Human Services, Division of Community and Youth Services wants to bring attention to the issues we are facing every day that are brought about by the prevalence of the misuse of alcohol and the associated costs of ignoring it. The Division recently submitted the final County Comprehensive Plan for the Organization and Delivery of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services to the New Jersey Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS). Nick Loizzi, the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Director and Municipal Alliance Coordinator for Sussex County says the extensive research put into preparing the plan by the members of the Sussex County LACADA (Local Area Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse) with help from DMHAS brought to light the significant issues we are facing regarding the use and misuse of alcohol.
According to the research conducted, Sussex County was the fifth highest county in New Jersey for adults in need of alcohol treatment in 2012. The 2009 household survey of drug use and health conducted by the state found that Sussex County adults reported significantly higher rates of alcohol use than the state average; lifetime use was 8.4% higher than the state average, past year use was 10.8% higher, and past 30 day use of alcohol was also 8.4 % higher than the state average. "In sum, in 2012, although small in population, Sussex County residents were at relatively high risk of developing a substance abuse treatment need, particularly for problem drinking." (Sussex County Comprehensive Plan: Data Analysis)
The problem is not limited to adults, however. According to the 2010 Middle School Risk and Protective Factor Survey conducted by DMHAS, Sussex County's rate of past year use of alcohol among 10 to 14 year olds was the third highest in the state. "[T]he 2010 middle school survey suggested that Sussex County children are growing up in the relatively moderate risk environment in comparison to other counties in New Jersey. However, the finding did suggest that a larger proportion of those who were children in 2010 may become future problem drinkers compared to 86% of New Jersey counties." (Sussex County Comprehensive Plan: Data Analysis)
In recognition of these statistics and in an effort to address the issue of problem drinking in the county, eleven Municipal Alliance Committees serving 21 of the 24 communities have developed individual plans that are funded by a grant from the New Jersey Governor's Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. These committees provide comprehensive programming for all age groups that includes awareness of the dangers of misusing substances including alcohol. Combined, they offer almost 90 programs throughout the grant year (July-June) in an effort to reduce the prevalence of substance abuse.
The Sussex County Division of Community and Youth Services is joining with the New Jersey Association of County Alliance Coordinators which represents the 21 County Municipal Alliance programs throughout New Jersey to declare April 21, 2017 "Wear Purple Day" in recognition of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence's (NCADD) Alcohol Awareness Month. In response, the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders will issue a proclamation at their meeting on April 12, 2017.
Purple was chosen by NCADD because it is a color similar to the amethyst. According to NCADD, amethyst is the most beautiful and valuable form of Quartz. The word "amethyst" comes from the Greek, "without drunkenness" and in ancient times anyone carrying this stone could not become intoxicated. By wearing amethyst, a person announces that they know someone whose life has been improved through alcoholism treatment.
Throughout the county, individuals and groups are encouraged to acknowledge the importance of alcohol awareness by wearing purple.
The Sussex County Administrative Center
According to Loizzi, "We recognize the struggle that people with alcoholism and their loved ones endure every day. The idea behind Wear Purple Day is our small way of acknowledging their struggle and showing our support."
Each Municipal Alliance consists of members from the community it serves. They are volunteer-driven committees dedicated to providing substance abuse prevention programs and activities within their communities. If you would like more information about the Municipal Alliance in your community or to volunteer for your Municipal Alliance Committee or one of the county committees that oversee the program, contact Nick Loizzi, the Sussex County Municipal Alliance Coordinator at (973) 940-5200 ext. 1383.