In an effort to help connect Union County residents with guidance and resources on coping with alcoholism, the Union County Board of Commissioners is joining in a nationwide campaign in April to raise awareness about the facts and dangers of alcohol abuse.

“The Commissioner Board has a longstanding commitment to help the Union County community know the facts about alcohol, keep the lines of communication open, and ensure that our community has access to resources that can prevent or overcome alcohol abuse,” said Board of Commissioners Chairman Alexander Mirabella. “That work is more important than ever during the COVID-19 crisis, and we are proud to reaffirm our commitment in partnership with countless others who are working to raise awareness.”

Alcoholism is a progressive disorder that results in severe health issues, and alcohol accounts for a significant proportion of substance abuse treatment admissions. In Union County, 35% of persons admitted for treatment list alcohol as their primary drug.

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Even before the COVID-19 crisis began, alcohol was listed among the leading causes of preventable death in the U.S. The social and economic stress of the pandemic has worsened the problem.

Alcohol sales in the U.S. rose 54% at the beginning of the pandemic, according to a Nielsen survey. A recent study also demonstrates consumption has increased significantly since one year ago, with women accounting for a disproportionate share of the difference.

Alcohol consumption by women rose 17% since last year, compared to an increase of 14% for all genders. The study also tracked a 41% increase in heavy drinking by women.

The Union County awareness campaign is being conducted through the Office on Behavioral Health and Substance Abuse in the Department of Human Services.

As part of the campaign, all Union County residents and visitors are encouraged to wear purple on April 16, which has been declared “Wear Purple Day” in support of the Alcohol Awareness Month program of the Council on Substance Abuse – National Council on Alcoholism.

By wearing purple, members of the public demonstrate that they support treatment and recovery for alcoholism, or that they know someone who has benefited from treatment.

The Commissioner Board will also support the campaign through social media, and by providing information on resources and guidance on the County website at ucnj.org/obhsa.

In addition, banners honoring Alcoholism Awareness Month will be hung in the lobby of the County Administration Building in Elizabeth, and County staff will distribute Alcohol Awareness ribbons.

A national helpline run by the Council on Substance Abuse – National Council on Alcoholism is available to the public at 800-662-HELP (4357) to provide free, confidential referrals and information on a 24/7, 365-day-a-year basis.

For more information about the awareness campaign in Union County, Gene Tavera, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Coordinator, Division of Individual & Family Support Services, Office on Behavioral Health and Substance Abuse, in the Union County Department of Human Services, at gene.tavera@ucnj.org or 908-527-4844.

For more information and updates on all Union County services during the COVID-19 outbreak, including the Drive-Through Test Center at Kean University, the Mobile Test Unit walk-up sites, vaccination information, emergency food distribution and other support services, visit ucnj.org/covid19. General information about COVID-19 is available through the New Jersey Department of Health at nj.gov/health.

For all Union County programs and services visit ucnj.org, call the Public Info Line, 877-424-1234, email info@ucnj.org or use the online Contact Form.

Connect with Union County on social media.