SOUTH PLAINFIELD, The South Plainfield Municipal Alliance, in conjunction with the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ), hosted an informative drug and alcohol awareness workshop on May 5. Entitled ‘If They Use, You Lose,’ the hour-long program offered parents information on how to talk to their children and what warning signs to look for. Additionally, the dangers of drug and alcohol use were also discussed.

“In the past year, four young adults that I know of have died from a heroin overdose. I think that says something,” said Kelly Richkus, assistant principal at South Plainfield High School and a member of the South Plainfield Municipal Alliance. “We need to bring attention to a very serious manner.”

Rhonda Greene, student assistance coordinator at the high school, added, “The problem is not just in South Plainfield but rather everywhere. This is something that we have to deal with and face.”

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According to the PDFNJ, statistics show that 50-percent of all 12th graders admit to having used or tried some form of illicit drug –whether it be alcohol, cigarettes (including electronic), inhalants, marijuana and/or ecstasy – and that reasons include curiosity, peer pressure, being stressed out, or to fit in. Additionally, heroin-related deaths have increased 24-percent among 18-25 year old.

“Kids are starting at a younger age. Back in the 1970s, the perceived risk was greater. Now, so many don't think it is a big deal,” said Denere Postell, community education for the Milburn-based PDFNJ.

During last Thursday’s program, Postell discussed ways parents can talk to their children about drug and alcohol use and suggested sometimes all a child wants is someone to listen. “Spend 15 minutes a day talking to your children. Make is a discussion more than a lecture,” she advised, adding, “Just asking what is going can make all the difference.”

Postell also provided parents with some telltale signs that typically suggest someone is using, including but not limited to, being very sleepy; changes in appearance/hygiene; glassy or red eyes; increased use of incense, perfume or air freshener; fights with family and friends; changes in mood or social circle; and missing money and/or medications. “Know the signs and what to look for,” Postell said.

“No one wakes up in the morning and thinks ‘today I am going to start taking heroin.’ It starts somewhere else,” added Richkus. “We need to work together as a community, a school and as a town to help the our children make decisions now so that, as adults, they do not make worse decisions.”

The Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey is run in cooperation with the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse and the NJ Department of Human Services. The New Jersey division of the organization was established in 1992 as a state anti-drug alliance to localize, strengthen, and deepen drug-prevention media efforts. For additional information, visit or call 973-467-2100.

In addition to last week's workshop, an educational and informative forum entitled ‘Drugs and Alcohol in the Community’ is scheduled for Thursday, May 19 at 7 p.m. at the South Plainfield Public Library. The forum, hosted by the South Plainfield Mayor’s Wellness Committee with support from TAPinto South Plainfield and the South Plainfield Observer, will include special guest speakers and a question and answer session. The forum is free, open to the public and not geared to a specific age group. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, call Debbie Boyle at (908) 803-1573 or visit

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