Hammonton Drug Alliance speaks at Canoe Club
Members of the Hammonton Drug Alliance (HDA) discussed topics of drugs and drug prevention programs to guests at the Hammonton Canoe Club on June 20. HDA Coordinator Mary Young and Co-Chair Rhonda Hummel spoke to guests about what the Drug Alliance does for the community, what programs that they’re involved in and events that they hold.
The HDA provides prevention for students from kindergarten through high school and get involved by going to different places in the community to speak on topics of drug prevention.
Young discussed prevention programs such as drugs, alcohol, vaping and more as more young children, including middle and high school students, have been partaking more in vaping. Young discussed how unsafe vaping is despite the common perceptions that vaping is safe, providing an example of popcorn lung.
“Popcorn lung is where you get moisture within your lungs and they actually start to pop.
That’s a disease where you can’t breathe and it simulates an asthma attack or some people think it’s a heart attack because you just can’t breathe,” Young said.
Both Young and Hummel brought informational brochures on different drug topics, which include marijuana due to the state legalization of it. There are three locations in town that sell marijuana as they follow the guidelines of being a distance away from a church and school, although Young stated that she was unsure if they’re currently available.
The HDA’s budget is provided through the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (GCADA). This allows them to buy materials to educate students and the community on these certain topics.
During COVID-19, schools were closed so the HDA became creative and started Storytime with Santa, where Young’s backyard was changed into Santa’s workshop. They had someone volunteer as Santa and read three stories on Channel 9, which aired once a week from the beginning of Christmas through Christmas Eve.
“We can still reach the kids, we can reach families. We’re all about promoting family time so you can spend time with your family and you don’t go out and do something stupid and keep you busy with that,” Young said.
When things were starting to get back to normal and everyone was slowly meeting in-person, both Young and Hummel made kits which included cooking recipes, arts and crafts and utilized the 310 Bellevue Avenue location for curbside pickup for parents who registered to get the kits, which helped their goal of promoting family time, reaching families and being COVID-19 friendly.
Young then discussed the L.E.A.D. Program (Law Enforcement Against Drugs). The program is fifth-graders only and is taught by two police officers in town, including Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel. Friel covers many topics in the program, including bullying, self-esteem and staying away from drugs. The HDA also had three clothing bins at Walmart, where the funds from the bins supported law enforcement. Last school year, Hammonton High School (HHS) Student Resource Officer (SRO) Richard Jones passed away so the HDA paid $3,000 for a police car to be decorated in Jones’s honor and brought it around in homecoming, according to Young. The car is driven every day to HHS by current SRO Kenneth O’Neill.
Other programs that the HDA provide are Noon Years Eve, where children meet at 310 Bellevue Avenue on New Years Eve at 12 p.m. and have little playdates, which include balloons, face painting, snacks and many more. This is to provide children the opportunity to enjoy the new year without having to stay up until midnight to ring in the new year. The HDA also provides free Narcan training as well as information on sober living houses.
Both Young and Hummel also provided bags to every guest that contained information regarding different topics on drugs as well as some resources that they need. The topic of medical marijuana was also discussed due to New Jersey’s legalization of marijuana dating back to January 2022. The presentation concluded with Young mentioning that for emergency purposes, people can dial 2-1-1 for a shortcut through health and human agency calls and be provided assistance to appropriate agencies and community organizations, especially for the elderly.