WEDNESDAY, JULY 13th, 2022
Listen to a vital discussion about Addiction Family Support Services provided by Prevention Links, with their CEO, Morgan Thompson (she/her) on EBC Radio 1170AM – the #1 listened to South Asian radio station in the U.S. See the transcript of the discussion below.
Alka (Host): Today we are going to have a very, very special segment and I’m going to be speaking to Morgan Thompson from Prevention Links. She has a master’s in social work and she is the CEO of Prevention Links, a Union County-based nonprofit focused on substance use prevention and recovery support. Ms. Thompson was instrumental in the launch of the Raymond J. Lesniak Experience, Strength and Hope Recovery High School; the Experience, Strength & Hope Recovery Center; and the New Jersey Coalition for Addiction Recovery Support, which is also called NJ-CARS. All of these innovative solutions to the addiction crisis our state and country are facing are driven by passion and lived experience of addiction recovery.
Ms. Thompson is a person in long-term recovery, having been alcohol and drug free since 2009. Ms. Thompson entered recovery at the age of 18 and speaks candidly about her experiences as an adolescent navigating the continuum of care and recovery support services. Ms. Thompson is a graduate of the Rutgers School of Social Work. It’s my privilege and honor to have Ms. Thompson on EBC Radio with that very warm welcome, Ms. Thompson, how are you doing?
Morgan: Hi Alka I’m well, thank you so much for having me.
Alka: It’s really our honor to have you on the radio and to learn a lot about what Prevention Links does. So can you tell us about Prevention Links and its mission?
Morgan: Absolutely. So, Prevention Links is a nonprofit organization. We’ve been serving Union County and the surrounding region for more than 50 years. Our mission is to foster healthy, sustainable communities by empowering people through education, collaboration and by serving as a linkage to resources. We take a leadership role in the prevention of the misuse of drugs, alcohol, tobacco and related issues. And so we have a number of different services.
Our prevention services focus on building strong, connected, resilient families and communities, and providing education that allows people of all ages to make informed choices about their health, including how they do or don’t engage with substances. We provide evidence-based educational programs in the schools, in the community, for older adults, for parents, and for other populations. We also operate five Family Success Centers which are home-like gathering places where families can come for support and resources.
And then, our recovery support services – which we will be talking a little more about today – are designed to build recovery capital for individuals, families and communities. So – if you’re not familiar – the term “recovery capital” – (recovery capital) are the resources that someone has available to them to initiate and sustain recovery. So we help people who are impacted by addiction – and their families – using a peer-support model. We help them at all stages of the recovery journey, with a focus on stability, community, health and purpose.
We operate 3 recovery community centers, which are safe, supportive gathering places for the recovery community and at the centers we offer peer recovery support, workforce training & career services, social activities and a variety of mutual aid support meetings.
Alka: Well that is such great work you’re doing, substance abuse is such a serious matter. So can you give us an overview of what services your program provides?
Morgan: Certainly – today I want to share specifically about our services for family members who have a loved one impacted by addiction. We provide support using the CRAFT model, which stands for Community Reinforcement and Family Training. Through CRAFT, we empower families to balance their own self-care with being a support to their loved one who has a substance use disorder. It’s so easy for family and friends to get lost in the chaos of addiction, it’s terrifying, it’s frustrating, it can even be infuriating, to watch your loved one destroy their health, their relationships – really their life, and to feel powerless to do anything about it.
What CRAFT does is teach loved ones how to communicate effectively with the person with substance use disorder, through positive reinforcement, boundary setting, and other strategies. CRAFT participants are in a position to not only prioritize their own personal wellbeing, but to increase the likelihood that their loved one engages in treatment or recovery services.
Our Family Support Coordinators, who operate the Centers, have their own lived experience of guiding a loved one through substance use disorder. They’ve been there and they can relate on an emotional level. They teach participants CRAFT skills in a group and one on one, and they help participants develop their own plan to implement the CRAFT skills they’re learning, with their loved one.
Alka: So how to program participants access this service?
Morgan: Really the best way is to attend our CRAFT Family Support Meeting which is held every Thursday at 7pm on Zoom, and to register for that meeting. And also – for families who prefer to not attend the group at first, or ever if they’d rather just communicate one on one for confidentiality reasons – they can speak privately with the Family Support Coordinator. Participants can call our 24-hour 7-day-a-week hotline at 1-855-825-3275 or they can send an email to email@example.com And we also have more information on our website at www.preventionlinks.org
Alka: Well I’ll repeat the number again, the hotline number is 1-855-825-3275 or you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
So now, Ms. Thompson, can you tell me if this program is limited in coverage to a specific region and what are the eligibility requirements if any?
Morgan: Prevention Links provides this service in Union, Middlesex and Monmouth counties but the program is available statewide. If you live in another county but you feel like you would benefit from this program, feel free to reach out to us and we will connect you with your local Family Support Center depending on where you live in New Jersey.
Alka: Oh, that’s fantastic, so they can still write to your organization at email@example.com or 1-855-825-3275 and you will suggest the nearest location and they can be part of that right?
Morgan: Yes, exactly.
Alka: So how do your services specifically target or serve the South Asian population listening?
Morgan: Our services are open to all Union, Middlesex and Monmouth county residents who are wanting support for their loved one’s substance use disorder. And knowing that there’s a large and thriving South Asian population in the communities we service, our hope is really to be a resource to those families and to provide services that are truly relevant and provided in their preferred language. We do utilize a translation service that allows us to connect with people in over 100 languages.
Alka: Wow that’s fantastic, so they have the comfort of speaking in their language if somebody doesn’t speak English, or any other language. So you have people who can translate – that is really very, very good help to the community. How is your program serving COVID-19 impacted families, or what needs are resulting from COVID-19 can you meet?
Morgan: Well specific to our Family Support Center, we know that substance use and mental health challenges have risen significantly during the pandemic and even as things start to return to “the new normal”, the mental health and substance use challenges continue to rise. From the start of the pandemic Prevention Links has been making services available by phone and Zoom, and now that we’re also offering in-person services again, we do plan to make virtual options available indefinitely for both group and individual services.
We also found that connection and fun, now more than ever, are incredibly important for our families coming out of the pandemic. And so, one thing we started doing is offering a monthly social activity for the Family Support Center participants. Last month we did a pottery night, we’ve done Coffee and Canvas which is like a paint and sip but with coffee or tea instead of wine, and it’s really just an opportunity to connect and have fun. And it means so much so our families who’ve been isolated both from the pandemic, and because of their loved one’s addiction.
Alka: That’s fantastic, I’m sure it must be a very fun enjoyable event and when people get to see others also, they don’t feel like it’s just them who are going through these kinds of problems.
Morgan: Exactly. They’re not alone.
Alka: Exactly. What is a service component that is normal or unique to your program?
Morgan: I would say it’s really that our services are peer-driven. We really believe that to solve the addiction crisis, we have to leverage the power of lived experience. As you said in my bio, I myself am person living in long-term recovery from a substance use disorder. Many of our employees, our board members, and even some of our funders are people in recovery, and when we lift up those voices and recover out loud, we prevent others from dying in silence.
Addiction is a public health crisis and we’re not going to solve it by hiding in shame, and we can’t solve it without the leadership of the recovery community.
Alka: Well that is so nice to hear, that you yourself have gone through this and recovered, and now you’re training and teaching and helping so many people who are in this kind of problem. So really, life experience, and all of your team as you said, they all are into these kinds of issues and they are guiding the others. People know what can go wrong and how bad it is. So it is real experience that they are sharing with the people and helping them. That’s fantastic. So can you share with us a quick success story? Omitting any elements that would identify your participant
Morgan: Sure! So there’s one family that comes to mind that’s been part of the center for about 3 years now, and really they’re whole family has been so impacted by their son’s opioid addiction. It led him to involvement with the justice system, and lots of other challenges. The mother and father have been regular attendees at our CRAFT family group and they’ve learned new skills through that group to interact more effectively with their son. It’s taken time, but they report that he’s been in recovery for several months now. He’s connected to treatment, and they’re relationship is finally starting to heal. It wasn’t and easy journey, and mom and dad are still working through feeling the frustration, disappointment and you know, all of that through the many years of their son’s addiction. But the CRAFT skills have given them the tools to manage their emotions and to communicate with him more effectively.
In addition to that, the group has introduced them to other families who understand what they’re going through and that mutual support and the shared experiences have given them a foundation that’s helped them get through the hard times up until this point of stability with their son.
Alka: Wow, that’s a really touchy and very difficult for the family members but now they see the good results…they must be feeling success in the whole journey. I’m just overwhelmed with the story you just shared, you know? So what is the best way for our listeners to contact you for more information?
Morgan: So I would say the best way, and I will just mention that we’re on Facebook and Instagram, you can find us, but the best way to contact us would be through the email address I shared before firstname.lastname@example.org or at 1-855-825-3275
Alka: Well I’ll repeat that again that is email@example.com or you can call them at 1-855-825-3275. So again 1-855-825-3275 is their number, preventionlinks.org, or you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org