Drug Awareness and Prevention is Best Started Early - the CASA Mission
Chances are you’ve driven under the railroad trestle or passed by the Clifton Board of Education building and seen signage from CASA, Clifton Against Substance Abuse. But have you ever stopped to wonder what exactly CASA is, and what this group does? Founded over 30 years ago by a group of parents dealing with personal family issues, CASA is part of the City of Clifton’s Health Department, and is comprised of members of the business, professional, governmental, and educational communities. All are volunteers, contributing their experience and expertise to work at prevention, education, and awareness. CASA is funded through donations and grants from the City of Clifton and the Governor’s Council Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
CASA is dedicated to sharing information on all types of substances, ranging from the legal – tobacco, vaping, alcohol, and marijuana – to such illegal drugs as heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine. The belief is that it’s never too early to start teaching children the message that drugs are “not cool;” a message that is sent through such programs as poster and essay contests and the BABES program (Beginning Awareness Basic Education Studies), which uses puppets and age-appropriate words to explain difficult topics, including addiction. CASA also sponsors speakers, most recently Stephen Hill, a recovering addict who has given powerful presentations at the two Clifton public middle schools. It’s possible that your child mentioned Hill’s presentation; if not, now might be a good time to ask what they thought of his story. CASA is also involved with Red Ribbon week, when students from all Clifton schools’ grades K-12 learn about the origins of the red ribbon, as well as information on the various issues involved with addiction.
If you or your child went to Clifton High School in the past few years you might be familiar with the story of Billy and Ashley Streiter. Their parents, Bill and Debbie, speak every year just before Prom season and graduation, telling the story of their young adult children who were killed by a drunk driver. Their talk is followed by a drunk driving reenactment, another unforgettable moment designed to remind the senior class to never drive impaired. The enactment is held in the parking lot and the graduating class comes outside after the Streiters’ talk. Students see the aftermath of a fatal “crash,” a student being given field sobriety tests, and a hearse that takes their friends away. The students then reconvene to see a mock courtroom sentencing, with the victims’ and the drunk driver’s parents all speaking of their heartache. Many are involved in putting on this unforgettable message, including the Clifton Board of Education, CHS guidance, the Police and Fire Departments, the municipal judge, and the funeral home.
Other programs CASA helps to fund and manage include:
Schools Out After School Program (Boys and Girls Club)
Heroes & Cool Kids & Side Kicks
Jr. Police Academy
#NotEvenOnce Program (Clifton Police)
National Night Out Community Awareness (Clifton Police, Clifton Recreation)
Family Campout (Clifton Recreation)
Community Outreach and Resource Information Distribution
Recently, CASA featured Overdose Awareness Night, held at the end of August, featuring Angel Moms who lost children to overdoses, recovering addicts, and members of the faith and recovery communities. They gathered at City Hall in a night of unity and hope; hosted a Facebook Live panel discussion with recovering addicts, Angel Moms and counselors; and will again be involved with Black Balloon Day on Monday, March 6th. Black Balloon Day features students, schools, and other officials all talking about the scourge of overdoses affecting our community.
CASA is committed to education, advocacy, and community outreach and we are always looking for volunteers to aid in our mission. For more information or to volunteer, please contact President Tom Whittles at 973-800-2938. Meetings are held the last Tuesday of each month at the Health Department in Clifton City Hall. More information along with pictures and articles can be found on the CASA Facebook page, as well as via a link on the Clifton city web site.