Foster, Empower, Sustain.Our Story
The story of how Prevention Links came to be is just one small part of a much larger addiction prevention & recovery movement that happened, and is happening, in our country.
Over 70 years ago, Marty Mann, the first woman to achieve sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous, knew that “stigma would be our greatest foe.” What she didn’t know is that her public stance addressing the addiction crisis in the United States would eventually lead to the founding of our organization, Prevention Links.
Marty worked as a magazine editor, art critic, and photojournalist for renowned magazines such as Vogue, Harpers, and Tattler. However, she had an alcohol use disorder – and it progressed to the point where she was no longer able to hold a job, drifting in and out of homelessness while living abroad in London. In 1936, she returned to her family in the United States and sought help from doctors. Marty twice attempted suicide before discovering Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
Source: Obama White House Archives
“I wasn’t the only person in the world who felt and behaved like this! I wasn’t mad or vicious…I was suffering from an actual disease that had a name and symptoms like diabetes or cancer or TB – and a disease was respectable, not a moral stigma.”
When Marty read the first chapters of the Alcoholics Anonymous text, “the Big Book,” she had a profound realization: that she wasn’t alone; that she wasn’t “crazy”; and that “alcoholism was a disease and not a moral shortcoming.”
This one-time debutante and successful business woman, turned unfulfilled and sick with alcoholism, began her journey into addiction recovery. Marty became one of the first-ever women to successfully achieve sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous, and subsequently brought her passion for recovery far beyond the walls of the 12-step meeting room.
Marty found that other women were often reluctant to seek help. At the time, many people believed that alcohol use disorder among women was caused by underlying psychiatric problems, and that alcohol use problems were more pathological among women than among men.
Source: Obama White House Archives
This disappointing revelation was the spark which led to her declaration of war on the social stigma attached to addiction. In 1944, Marty established what’s now known as the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), an organization started to serve a dual purpose:
First, to have a proactive national education and advocacy program attacking the stigma and misunderstanding about alcoholism, treatment and recovery;
Second, to operate service centers in communities across the country staffed by professionals helping individuals and families with addiction problems (sound familiar?).
Eventually, NCADD affiliate offices were brought to New Jersey, one of which was opened in none other than Union County’s town of Westfield. Later becoming known as Prevention Links, our agency has stayed true to the model created by Marty Mann while building towards a brighter future:
1. Helping people find help
2. Reducing stigma by educating the community about addiction
3. Reducing the number of people that use substances and preventing addiction through education and awareness
4. Enhancing services in a meaningful and person-centered way
Prevention Links was officially established. In our over 50 year history, our agency has had only five Executive Directors:
- Theresa Mahgeary
- Gladys Kearns
- Diane Litterer
- Pamela Capaci
- Morgan Thompson
And in the tradition of Marty Mann, our agency has stayed focused on our mission through the strong leadership these great women.
we were almost 100% volunteer managed and operated.
the agency budget was $150,000 per year with 2 employees and $50,000 of debt.
our budget is 6 million dollars with 100+ employees and 9, soon to be 10 locations, serving tens of thousands of residents in five counties. And today we remain true to our founding principals:
We’ve always been helping people find help;
We’ve always been doing prevention & recovery advocacy;
We’ve always believed in the resilience of families;
We’ve always been building towards the brighter future our communities deserve.