Substance abuse doesn’t have one face. An abuser could be an elderly individual, a youth, or an adult struggling with life who found “relief” in a drug or alcohol. For those who want to move from abuse to recovery, there’s help: the non-profit organization Prevention is Key (PIK). Located in several counties, its Development Director, Laura Jennings Pitt of Pompton Lakes, explained, “Our bottom-line goal is to create a stigma free community. …we offer programs that will help individuals at all stages of recovery to find their way back to a meaningful life, and so, we don’t require abstinence of our participants but… we strive to meet them where they are.” But, PIK is not just for those with an addiction; it offers help to family and friends who are trying to support them in recovery. Also, it has prevention education programs. PIK offers its free services through its brick-and-mortar CARES (Center for Addiction Recovery Education and Success) centers, its mobile units, and its 24-hour hot line. Recently, Pitt talked a little about her role and gave an overview of PIK’s services.
Pitt is the organization’s first Development Director. Prior to her, everyone in the organization seemed to take some part in handling fundraising and it’s just become too big of a task for it to be managed in that way. “They needed to implement a centralized strategy led by someone who’s got the skills and the vision to deliver on the promises of the development department and that’s what brought me here to this organization,” explained Pitt.
In addressing PIK’s offerings, Pitt noted that there are five physical CARES locations: one in Essex County (Newark), two in Morris County (Dover and Rockaway), and two in Burlington County (Burlington County and Burlington City). “They’re a place where you can come and be part of a community that makes you feel welcomed. They’re really helpful for individuals who are just getting started in their recovery journey because they give them a place to go [where they] can be away from substances and around people who are encouraging and supportive and positive and just want to be there for them [when they need us],” shared Pitt. There’s peer support for both those in recovery and the people supporting them, where someone coming to the center is matched with someone with a similar background who’s gone through recovery or has supported someone going through recovery. The centers offer a variety of meetings (NA, AA, etc.) plus various educational offerings which include Narcan training in recognizing an overdose and administering Narcan. Administering Narcan to someone who is overdosing can reverse the effects of an overdose and save their life.
Pitt shared that there’s a monthly recovery recognition breakfast at the Rockaway location where individuals who are in or exploring the idea of recovery can meet with each other as well as network with some of the providers PIK works with. The breakfast includes speakers who talk about the different services that are available and then there’s a story of recovery. The breakfast takes place the second Monday of every month.
PIK also has mobile recovery units such as HOPE 1 for Morris County plus mobile units in Essex and Passaic counties. Through these units, connection is made with those homeless individuals struggling with substance abuse. “The way that we get the word out about where the mobile recovery units are going to be is in partnership with the sheriff’s offices, and those locations are publicized so we strive to make those units accessible to the communities,” shared Pitt. Building trust is the first step. Those struggling with addiction may not immediately ask to see a social worker or mental health professional or seek treatment for recovery. The mobile units give out homeless care packages, which are assembled at PIK’s general locations. What’s in the packages may vary but they contain things like food, personal hygiene items, toiletries and clean underwear. The unit will give rides to a place a homeless person might want to go to get a meal or shower or take the person to an appointment and then return the person to where they feel safe. It is through interactions like this that the trust is built so that the connection is there when the individual is ready to take the first step to recovery.
Jennings noted that in Passaic County, part of a care package is fentanyl test strips. Using these strips, a person can check for the presence of fentanyl in other substances such as heroin. This is part of “harm reduction”. Fentanyl is deadlier than other substances and Pitt noted that it can kill a person on the spot. PIK realizes people receiving its packages can still be abusing. Checking for fentanyl’s presence could keep a person from killing themselves by taking something laced with it. The idea is that the abuser will live longer with a chance of recovery in their future.
Besides the mobile unit and CARE centers, PIK has a 24-hour telephone recovery support line. “…if you don’t find our mobile recovery unit and you can’t come to our physical center. you can call us anytime,” said Pitt. She noted that it is not only for people who are struggling with substance use but also anyone who’s affected by it. The hotline number is 973-625-1143.
PIK offers events during the year addressing education, recovery, and fundraising. Its website lists what’s upcoming, ways to volunteer, and also includes a “shop” area where people can buy items to encourage those in recovery or as a way to support PIK by buying a gift for someone.
While, as its website notes, PIK ”relies on many trusted relationships with private foundations and government agencies to sustain and advance its mission”, fundraising is needed. According to its website, “There are over 27,000 individuals with a diagnosed SUD in the communities served by Prevention is Key, plus many others who struggle with problematic and chaotic use without any official diagnosis.” The funds PIK raises helps it to provide its services. An example of a fundraiser was the online #PIKYourWhy on social media for Giving Tuesday in November. The organization encouraged supporters, friends, peers, and loved ones to post why PIK is important to them with a button for people to click to donate. Also, people can donate at any time to the organization by going to a tab on its website: preventioniskey.org/donate
Pitt shared about a special fundraiser in the upcoming year. Looking ahead, on May 24, 2023, there will be a Road to Recovery event at the Windlass in Lake Hopatcong. There will be a sunset cruise, a tricky tray, and a speaker who has used PIK’s services and is in long term recovery.
For more information on PIK, people can call 973-625-1143 or visit it online at preventioniskey.org.