Essex County’s second annual “Night of Conversation,” a free family event designed to promote open and honest discussions about substance abuse, will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, December 11, at Bloomfield Middle School, 60 Huck Road.
The program is being sponsored by the Bloomfield Municipal Alliance Committee (BMAC), in partnership with Essex County’s ADAPT (Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Prevention Team), the YMCA of Montclair, the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (GCADA), the Mental Health Association in New Jersey (MHANJ) and the Essex County Division of Community Health Services.
“As the father of two young children, I would like to commend BMAC for being proactive in organizing forums like ‘Night of Conversation’ to help our community understand the issues facing teens and their families,” said Mayor Michael Venezia. “BMAC also organized great forums like ‘Tame the Teen’ and brought in Mallory’s Army in October to address issues like anxiety and bullying that affect entire families.”
“Parents and guardians are the first line of prevention in order to stop youth substance use and abuse before it even begins,” said ADAPT Manager Joel Torres, who is also a Hudson County Freeholder. “Essex County’s ‘Night of Conversation’ is an opportunity to become empowered to have conversations with your children and loved ones about drugs, alcohol and the effects of abuse and addiction. The event will help you become a trusted source of information for your child rather than having them rely on a friend or a stranger who might misinform them.”
New Jersey saw 2,750 drug overdose fatalities in 2017—approaching eight per day on average, according to data from the Office of the Chief State Medical Examiner. That number represented an increase of approximately 24 percent over the 2016 death toll of 2,221 drug overdose deaths (approximately six per day). In 2016, Essex County had the highest number of overdose deaths in the state.
The “Night of Conversation” will kick off with a performance by MHANJ’s NJ Mental Health Players, a performance troupe that uses theatrical improvisation and role playing to bring the realities of mental illness to life. It will be followed by a panel discussion with parenting educator and coach Helaina Altabef, a representative from the Bloomfield Police Department and a mental health expert. There will also be informational tables, giveaways and refreshments.
In 2015, Dr. Oz hosted a “National Night Of Conversation” to encourage parents to talk to their kids about drugs at the dinner table in the hopes of removing the stigmas associated with substance abuse. People were encouraged to post a picture of an empty dinner plate (as opposed to their meal) to show on that night the conversation was more important than food.
Early last year, the New Jersey State Legislature passed a joint resolution that was signed into law, designating one “Night of Conversation” each November to discuss drug abuse.
“The ‘Night of Conversation’ enables communities to come together to discuss the Opioid epidemic and try to find ways to stem the tide of substance use disorder and to aid in the recovery of those afflicted by this disease,” said Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo. “Essex has the highest number of overdoses and we must do everything we can to save the lives of those who are suffering with the disease. We invite parents, children, educators, health care providers and funders to participate in the ‘Night of Conversation’ to heighten awareness, share information and keep the conversation going.”
For more information on “Night of Conversation,” contact BMAC Coordinator Maya Lordo at 973-680-4022 or email@example.com. To register for the event, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/night-of-conversation-tickets-51758536175.