top of page

2019 Meetings

  • December 17, 2019

Harm Reduction

There has been a lot of buzz of late regarding the topic of Harm Reduction. What is harm reduction anyway?

“Harm reduction is a set of compassionate and pragmatic approaches for reducing harm associated with high-risk behaviors and improving quality of life”.  Meeting people where they are is one of the fundamental beliefs in the practice of harm reduction, which assists individuals regardless of their stage of substance use. At the core of harm reduction is the understanding that not all people who use drugs are ready or willing to participate in substance abuse treatment. Harm reduction includes overdose prevention, naloxone (Narcan), medical assisted treatment, syringe access, condoms, safer sex practices, reducing usage, HIV HCV and STD testing.


Our presenter on this topic is a man in the trenches. Robert Lowry is the Harm Reduction Coordinator for the Visiting Nurse Association Health Group's Harm Reduction Center located in Asbury Park. Robert started his work in public health 5 years ago as a volunteer at the Prevention Resource Network's LGBTQ youth drop in center Project REAL (Real Empowerment on All Levels) in Asbury Park. From there he started working as a Community Outreach Educator and moved to harm reduction to help open Asbury Park's first syringe access program. Robert is a member of the NJ HIV Planning Group where he is the co-chair of the Gay Men's Committee and has been part of the planning process of the annual NJ Gay Men's HIV Awareness Day Summit. Robert is currently pursuing a Bachelors Degree in Social Work.

For more information on the Visiting Nurse Association’s Harm Reduction Program, one of the 7 NJ State Department of Health’s state funded harm reduction programs, please contact Bobby at 908-675-1725

  • November 19, 2019


Special Meeting - October marked 4 years that Family Addiction Network has been in existence. The statistics regarding opioid abuse and addiction continue to be staggering, and those who have family members know all too well the frustration and stress that comes with this horrible disease and how isolating it can feel when you have someone who suffers.  With the holidays fast approaching, these feelings can be compounded adding to the angst we feel every day.   In an effort to support and uplift each other, at our November 19th meeting we will be breaking from our usual agenda and simply offering time to be together and share with each other our struggles, our frustrations and our hopes for our loved ones.   If you have been wondering about Family Addiction Network, this is a perfect time to come check us out.  There will be refreshments and snacks!  

7:00 – 8:30  

Norwood Room at West Long Branch Community Center

116 Locust Ave., WLB

  • October 15, 2019

Connection - The Effect of Love on an Addict

Please join us this month for an enlightening presentation with 

Nikki Tierney, whose story is quite amazing and impactful.


Nikki had an idyllic life growing up and was afforded every opportunity one could ask for.  She had 2 loving parents, a brother, and a sister and grew up in a middle-class home.  She was gifted academically and athletically and exceeded in school and sports.  In high school, she received an academic scholarship to a prestigious private school and was an all-state athlete in basketball and soccer.  She received a full athletic scholarship to college as well and went on to attend the University of New Haven in Connecticut where she was an academic all-American in basketball and played soccer as well.  She graduated from college as valedictorian of her class with straight A’s.  She received an NCAA post graduate scholarship and attended Rutgers School of Law - Newark.  Her academic success continued, and she graduated summa cum laude and received a lucrative job offer at a well-known Monmouth County law firm.  She married her high school sweetheart, they had triplets and a singleton, and by all perspectives seemed to have a fulfilling and successful life.  What only Nikki could see though, was that she was broken.  She had been battling an addiction to prescription pain killers for the better part of her life.  She was first prescribed narcotics at age 14 after undergoing a life-saving abdominal surgery.  Thereafter, she also experimented with alcohol and cocaine, eventually becoming addicted. 

As a result of her addiction, she descended into what could be described as hell on earth.  She lost custody of her four children, she had to voluntarily surrender her law license, she lost her marriage, her home to foreclosure, most friends and family, she lost her driver’s license, she overdosed and was saved by Narcan twice,  she became a felon, spent time committed to psychiatric institutions, jail, and rehabs, and most of all she lost her soul.  Essentially, she was homeless and sleeping in abandoned buildings or crack houses.  After a veiled suicide attempt in late 2007, Nikki sought treatment again, and this time, was able to remain sober and began her journey towards wholeness and wellness. 

Nikki will explore how her deep connections with her children, parents, brother, community, and fate helped lead her on an amazing journey of recovery.  Since becoming sober, she has regained full custody of her children and shares a vibrant loving relationship with them, she has healed wounds with her family and friends, she has become a real estate agent and title insurance producer, she is also attending Monmouth University seeking her Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with the goal of becoming an LPC and LCADC to help others like herself.  Nikki hopes to help give others what was so freely given to her and show people that ‘hope is never lost.  

  • September 17, 2019


For September we are happy to have Brian Mcgillivray, the director of NJ Reentry Corporation’s Neptune City location. The NJ Reentry Corporation’s mission is putting our community back to work. They work with returning citizens, employers and community partners to remove barriers to employment so that everyone in our community can be safer, healthier and better employed.


NJRC has been in existence since 2015 and aims to serve those in our community with any level of court involvement. Gainful employment is the most critical aspect of post-prison reentry. Job training, employment counseling, as well as employment placement programs are essential tools for effective reintegration and workforce development. The NJRC offers employment assistance as well as driver’s license restoration, obtaining basic ID, links to substance use, mental health and medical treatment. Brian has worked in the field for 11 years. Prior to his current position with NJRC he worked as a case manager with a local organization and has a clear passion for helping people get back on their feet

  • August 20, 2019


There has been much conversation recently about stigma and one of the most important ways to change is with the language we use. In the past couple of years there have been some very important distinctions about how to talk about substance use and addiction. Our presenters this month both work with the RWJ Barnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery. They are an integral part of the change in the culture of the hospital regarding how patients and their families are treated as well as in educating the staff on how to address the subject.

Our presenters are Ruth Palacio and Jenna Reidy. Ruth is a Recovery Support Health Educator who conducts instructional trainings to hospital departments system wide, addressing Substance Use Disorder, the Opioid Epidemic, Medically Assisted Treatment and related topics. She is involved in a Recovery Specialist workforce development initiative and designing an orientation curriculum for new hires. Ruth has extensive experience in Addictions, having worked in two large healthcare systems providing counseling, instructional design and program development.

Jenna is a woman living in long term recovery since 2008. She is a Nationally Certified Peer Recovery Support Specialist and Supervisor with the RWJ Barnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery’s Peer Recovery Program, Tackling Addiction Together. Jenna has been a recovery advocate throughout multiple organizations, with her primary focus and passion on the power of language and how it aids in shifting the culture around those affected by Substance Use Disorders. Previously, Jenna participated in the student mentoring program at the Raymond J. Lesniak Recovery High School in Union County.

Both these women are champions of the need to change how we address our current opioid epidemic and experts in the importance of how we talk about it. Hoping you can join us for this very informative and helpful presentation.

  • July 16, 2019


For July, our topic is Sober Living…Two brave and beautiful young women in recovery, Sarah and Alexis, will share their experience and knowledge of sober living!  Sarah, 4 years clean (as of March) and Alexis, 2 years (come September) have both lived in an Oxford House and speak with reverence and gratitude for how the experience there has helped them change their lives.  The Oxford House has given them both the opportunity to become self-sufficient while learning how to live with compassion and empathy for their house mates, qualities previously unattainable.  Among the other benefits these women speak about is the structure of sober living that leads to being employed, contributing to the daily house activities and, most important, how to be accountable.   The friendships formed in sober living allow for a safe place to express and even have fun in recovery.  Both of these women bring knowledge and wisdom from a hands-on, experiential perspective.  We hope you can join us!

  • June 18, 2019


When we talk about self care, part of that is creating "me time". This month we will be dedicating the first half of the evening to relaxing and having a chance to mingle and share conversation. The second half of the evening will be our usual confidential sharing circle. This is a great opportunity for new folks to come and see what we are all about! Please feel free to bring a friend or family member and as always, refreshments will be served! See you there!

  • May 21, 2019


There is a reason why they tell you on the airplane to put your oxygen mask on first, before trying to help someone else. As family members of someone struggling with addiction and as caregivers, some of us forget the important act of taking care of ourselves.


This month we are honored to have Amy (Budinich) Emley as our presenter. Amy has lived with substance abuse from all angles, from her own struggle and now long-term sobriety, as well as several immediate family members who have suffered or still suffer. She has created and runs Root to Rise, a recovery community committed to helping those recovering from drug and alcohol abuse to remain clean and sober through physical activity while promoting mindfulness and positivity. Amy has been providing professional outreach programs for rehab facilities, schools and detention centers for several years.

She will share her very hopeful story of recovery and teach us some tips and techniques for self-care that we can easily incorporate into our daily lives. We hope you can attend this very informative and helpful presentation!

  • April 16, 2019


We are pleased to have Ken Pecoraro back to present on a very important topic, Harm Reduction.
The official definition of harm reduction is as follows:

“Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. Harm Reduction is also a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who use drugs. Harm reduction incorporates a spectrum of strategies from safer use, to managed use to abstinence to meet drug users “where they’re at,” addressing conditions of use along with the use itself. Because harm reduction demands that interventions and policies designed to serve drug users reflect specific individual and community needs, there is no universal definition of or formula for implementing harm reduction.” – From

In its simplest terms, harm reduction is about recognizing and meeting your loved as they are, realistically. It is also learning how to accept incremental change and realizing that not everyone is the same, comparing can be unfair and counterproductive. Understanding that addiction is a disease and learning about the myths and misconceptions is a big step toward a harm reduction approach.

Ken Pecoraro is program coordinator for CPC Behavioral Healthcare’s Addiction Recovery Services Program. He holds multiple certifications including LCSW, LCADC and CSS, has over twenty years of experience in the field. He developed his own staff-training program, which is a model for other addiction recovery professionals throughout New Jersey. Pecoraro authored, "Taking the Escalator – An Alternative to the 12 Steps", a recently released book which has garnered praise in the field. More information about his program is here: Ken's ability to communicate clinical information with humor, compassion and in clear language makes him a sought-after presenter about substance abuse and addictions, including the heroin epidemic.

  • March 19, 2019


There are many roads to recovery.  Not everyone can or should take the same path to get clean and sober.  What works for one may not work for another.  How do you know what will work for you or your loved one?  When will you/they be ready?  What are the options and what part does mental health play in your loved one’s decision to work a program and/or attend a treatment center?

Jackie Adams, Mental Health Professional, has worked in the field of substance use disorders for 25 years.  She has seen her clients get clean and sober in a variety of ways inclusive of several treatment modalities.  She will present options and discussion on what is available to you or your loved one as they find their path to recovery.


Hope to see you there!

  • February 19, 2019


What does it mean to be a “victim”?  Not in the sense of being victimized, but in the idea that somehow everything that happens is because of someone else.  Most family members of those struggling with substance use issues can relate to the lack of personal responsibility that is prevalent in the daily interactions with our loved one.  This month we are blessed to have an expert on the subject, Phillip O’Hara.


Philip was born and raised in Monmouth county. After finding recovery in 2016 he quickly developed a passion for helping others. Starting as a housing coordinator for Chrysalis Recovery Source, he later moved on to Outreach Coordinator for Amethyst Recovery Center. In that time Philip has been certified as Recovery Peer Specialist through the Florida Certification Board, Arise trained interventionist, and a motivational speaker trained directly by world famous Les Brown. In 2017 Philip was an instrumental part in founding of the Hazlet Hope Network, a non-profit in his home town that has trained over a dozen volunteers to become recovery coaches and go into local police departments upon drug arrests and overdose reversals. On top of that Philip is extremely active as a prevention speaker working closely with Michael DeLeon and the Steered Straight program going into High school and Middle schools all over the country. Most recently he was appointed to the Monmouth county board of addiction services.  

Phillip is a very effective speaker, but also has a story of hope in recovery.  


This is one you do not want to miss!

  • January 15, 2019


Our presenter is Betsy Schuff, president of the Drug Education Initiative (DEI). DEI is an organization of concerned parents from Oceanport who formed this organization after losing the young son of one of their close friends.  They are dedicated and committed to heightening drug awareness in our community, promoting drug education in our schools, and ending the stigma of drug addiction.  


Teaching children and parents about mental health issues and addiction are paramount to addressing this epidemic.  Betsy is a strong advocate for addressing stigma associated with mental health and substance use issues.  What is stigma and how do we really change our own feelings and the attitudes of others?  Betsy will share what she has learned personally, as well as during the 14 years she managed a mental health facility, about ending stigma and learning how to discuss this issue without shame.  

bottom of page