Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Problem Gambling Awareness Town Hall

8th Annual Town Hall Meeting
“Gaming & Gambling: What is the Connection?”
Wednesday, June 19, 2019
5:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Easy Does It, Inc.
1300 Hilltop Road
Leesport, PA

Join us for a FREE event to learn about the connection between gaming and problem gambling. Dinner is provided at no cost. For more information contact Marcia at 610-376-8669 ext. 112. or

Tips for Prom & Graduation Season

For teens, the end of the school year ushers in a season of celebrations: proms, graduations and parties. For parents, though, this season of joy can be tempered by worry. Teens are more at risk for car accidents during prom and graduation season. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one-third of all alcohol-related teen driving fatalities occur between April and June. While that’s a frightening figure, parents can take measures to ensure their child’s safety. Our Prevention Specialist Sonia Santiago had these tips for parents.

TALK WITH YOUR CHILD AHEAD OF TIME – don’t leave the conversation until the day of, start the conversation now.
  • Tell them you love them and your primary concern is their health and safety.
  • Talk about plans for post prom and graduation festivities. Share thoughts on situations that might arise and discuss how to handle them.
DISCUSS THE RULES – help relieve stressful situations by being clear and consistent about rules and expectations.
  • Know where your teen is, when they will be leaving the graduation, prom and after party.
  • Set a curfew.
  • Make it clear you will wait up and you’ll know if he or she gets home on time.
  • If your teen is riding in a limo, limit number of passenger to ensure there are enough seat belts, and check the company’s policy on allowing alcohol in the vehicle.
  • Offer other options such as driving them yourself or other public transportation in your community (Uber, taxi). Make sure they have money to cover alternative transportation.
  • If your child is driving, establish safe-driving rules (no texting & driving, wear seat-belt, obey the speed limit, keep both hands on the wheel).
  • Be clear about who is allowed and who is not allowed in the car.
  • Discuss the dangers associated with drinking.
  • Explain that the consequences and risks extend beyond their teen years.
  • Remind them that it only takes one bad decision to potentially ruin their future.
  • Ask them NOT to drink or use other substances.
  • Arrange specific check-in times and keep your phone nearby.
  • Plan with your teen what they should do if they find themselves in an unsafe situation.
  • Get a list of names and phone numbers of anyone who will be with your teenager.
  • Plan your own, adult-supervised, drug and alcohol free after-party.
  • Some parents feel that hosting a house party where alcohol is served to minors will keep them safe. It is against the law. Teen drinking is always dangerous.
  • Keeping teens safe and healthy should be the parents primary concern.
  • Make sure other parents are all on the same page about alcohol-free festivities.

Drug Treatment Court: Treating Addiction Through the Justice System

Many times, people in need of treatment for substance use disorders wind up in court for drug-related offenses.  Berks County Drug Treatment Court can help those individuals get treatment and lessen their criminal record.

Drug Treatment Court is a diversionary program that is supported by the Council on Chemical Abuse. It is a form of sentence that requires the defendant to comply with a series of mandated activities, including intensive supervision and treatment services, in order to avoid conviction.  The goal of the program is to provide participants with structure and direction to help them enter a new pattern of life.

As part of the requirements, participants must appear in court every other week, meet with a probation officer weekly, and participate in recovery-related activities. The program usually involves treatment, counseling, community service, frequent drug tests, and finding or keeping a job or continuing schooling.

Length of participation ranges from 12 – 18 months, although it can be longer depending upon an individual’s motivation to follow direction and maintain compliance with program expectations. Individuals who successfully fulfill the requirements of Drug Treatment Court can benefit greatly and can possibly have their criminal record expunged.

Berks County has four treatment courts. In addition to Drug Treatment Court, there are also programs that address mental health, veterans and DUI offenders. Over the past three years, these programs have saved about $5 million in prison costs, by keeping the defendants out of prison, according to a May 2019 article in the Reading Eagle. Even more importantly, they set people on a path for recovery, enabling them to lead fulfilling lives.

Nigel Walker, pictured above, went through Drug Treatment Court several years ago. The intense supervision and mandatory drug and alcohol treatment services she received afforded her the opportunity to  take the first steps towards recovery.

“I’m not ashamed anymore,” she said of her recovery story.

To learn more about Berks County Drug Treatment Court, watch our May 8 BCTV episode

You can also listen in to WEEU on May 20 to hear the stories of drug treatment court graduates.

May 2019 Berks Treatment Court Graduation, celebrating 25 grads

NEWS: Addiction Education for the Spanish Speaking Community



Esperanza para Berks: Educating Parents and Guardians
Addiction Education for the Spanish Speaking Community

Reading, PA: The Council on Chemical Abuse will provide a partial day event including resources and education – all in Spanish. The event, called Esperanza para Berks, was the first of its kind for Berks in 2016, and its back for round three.

This year’s event will focus on educating parents and guardians. The event will be held at the Centro Hispano, located on Washington Street in downtown Reading, on Saturday, April 27, 2019. Doors open at 10:30 a.m. Attendees will hear from local professionals about how to talk with children about drugs and alcohol, problem gaming & gambling. Also available this year is the opportunity for individuals to go home with Narcan, the life-saving opioid overdose medication. The event will end about 2 p.m. with door prizes. The public is welcome to attend this event for free, and parking will be available at the Abraham Lincoln. Lunch will also be provided.

Esperanza para Berks is a unique program, and it’s changing the atmosphere of our community as we discuss the needs of the Latino population in Berks. We are excited to once again provide the necessary information about addiction to drugs and alcohol to the Spanish-speaking community,” said Jobany Bedoya, Small Business and Latino Outreach Coordinator for the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance. Bedoya is the event committee chair, as well as, Board President of the Council on Chemical Abuse.

Further information about Esperanza para Berks can be found here:

For more information or to schedule media interviews, please contact:

Sonia Santiago
(610) 376-8669, Ext. 102

About the Council on Chemical Abuse

Established in 1972 by a group of community members, the Council on Chemical Abuse was formed as a private non-profit organization to address rising concerns of drug and alcohol use in Berks County. The Berks County Commissioners contract with the Council on Chemical Abuse (COCA) as the Single County Authority for Berks County, PA. As the coordinating agency for publicly supported drug and alcohol programming in the county, COCA and its partners provide an array of prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery services

Esperanza para Berks: Educando a Padres y Tutores
Educación sobre Adicciones para la Comunidad Hispana

Reading, PA: El Concilio en Abuso de Sustancias Químicas proporcionará un evento de medio día que incluye recursos y educación, todo en español. El evento, llamado Esperanza para Berks, fue el primero de su tipo para Berks en 2016, y está de vuelta para la tercera ronda.

El evento de este año se centrará en educar a los padres y tutores. El evento se llevará a cabo en el Centro Hispano, ubicado en la calle Washington en el centro de Reading, el sábado, 27 de abril de 2019. Las puertas se abrirán a las 10:30 am. Los asistentes escucharán de profesionales locales sobre cómo hablar con los niños sobre las drogas y el alcohol, problemas con juegos de video y juegos de azar. También, disponible este año es la oportunidad para que las personas se vayan a casa con Narcan, el medicamento de sobredosis de opioides que salva vidas. El evento terminará alrededor de las 2 p.m. con premios de salida. El público es bienvenido a asistir a este evento de forma gratuita, y habrá estacionamiento disponible en el Abraham Lincoln. También se proporcionará almuerzo.

“Esperanza para Berks es un programa único, y está cambiando la atmósfera de nuestra comunidad a medida que discutimos las necesidades de la población latina en Berks. Estamos muy contentos de proporcionar una vez más la información necesaria sobre la adicción a las drogas y el alcohol a la comunidad de habla hispana “, dijo Jobany Bedoya, Coordinador de Alcance para Pequeños Negocios y Latinos de la Greater Reading Chamber Alliance. Bedoya es el presidente del comité del evento, así como el presidente de la Junta del Concilio en Abuso de Sustancias Químicas.

Puede encontrar más información sobre Esperanza para Berks aquí:

Sobre el Concilio en Abuso de Sustancias Químicas

Establecido en 1972 por un grupo de miembros de la comunidad, el Concilio en Abuso de Sustancias Químicas (Council on Chemical Abuse) se formó como una organización privada sin fines de lucro para abordar las crecientes preocupaciones sobre el consumo de drogas y alcohol en el condado de Berks. Los Comisionados del Condado de Berks tienen un contrato con el Concilio en Abuso de Sustancias Químicas  (COCA, por sus siglas en inglés) como la Autoridad Única del Condado para el Condado de Berks, PA. Como agencia coordinadora de programas de drogas y alcohol con apoyo público en el condado, COCA y sus socios brindan una variedad de servicios de prevención, intervención, tratamiento y recuperación. Para obtener más información, visite

NEWS: Recovery Center to Open in Berks this Summer


Recovery Center to Open in Berks this Summer

Reading, PA: Today, at their regularly scheduled meeting, the Council on Chemical Abuse (COCA) Board of Directors approved the establishment of a Community Recovery Resource Center. The center will be located at the Big Mill Center at 8th and Oley streets in Reading and will provide supportive services and activities to the recovery community in Berks.

“As an organization, we are happy to announce the approval of a Community Recovery Resource Center for Berks County. We’ve been working on this project for over a year and we are excited for this to finally become a reality,” states Stanley Papademetriou, COCA Executive Director. The center will promote sustained recovery and help individuals avoid relapse back into active addiction. The Community Recovery Resource Center is not a drug and alcohol or mental health treatment facility, nor will anyone reside at the location. Rather, the space will offer opportunities for mutual aid support and provide educational events focused on recovery. The purpose is to create an environment for positive and mutually beneficial socializing and fellowship for those in recovery.

The establishment of the Community Recovery Resource Center is made possible through monies made available specifically for this center. This includes drug forfeiture funds received from District Attorney John Adams, state grant funding received through strong support from Senator Judy Schwank, and monies received from the MH/DD HealthChoices Program and Community Care Behavioral Health Organization.

Slated to open this summer, the Community Recovery Resource Center will include the opportunity for recovery-specific trainings, meetings and social activities. Details on the center’s events and programs will be determined by a steering committee comprised of Berks County community residents who are committed to promoting and advancing addiction recovery.

According to Jeffrey G. Auman, COCA Executive Board Member, the center will subscribe to the many pathways to recovery philosophy and will support activities and events that can reach the broadest number of individuals and families in recovery from addiction. “For example, on any given day, there may be a 12-step meeting, a Celebrate Recovery group, a painting class, and a personal skills development workshop,” Auman notes. “The possibilities are endless. All are welcome.”

The Center will be open on designated days and times with at least one Certified Recovery Specialist (CRS) on-site at all posted hours of operation. A Certified Recovery Specialist is specifically trained in supporting individuals in recovery from addiction.

Additional information regarding when the Center will open, its hours of operation, availability of specific programs and services, and other pertinent information will be made public in the coming weeks.


Related News Posts:

WFMZ – COCA to open community recovery resource center in Reading

Reading Eagle – New drug-abuse recovery center gets lease on life in Reading

NEWS: Speaker Draws Attention to Gaming and Gambling

Did you know that online gaming can lead to gambling? Or that the loot boxes in computer games produce the same feeling in the brain as winning on a slot machine? These are a few of the fascinating facts that were revealed during two gambling awareness events organized by COCA on March 26. Presenter Daniel Trolaro, the Assistant Executive Director for the Council of Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, gave a dynamic presentation on The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Gaming & Gambling. He spoke at Kutztown University in the morning and at Reading’s DoubleTree Hotel in the evening.

Here are a few of the many facts discussed by Trolaro in his information packed, hour-long presentation.

  • Loot Boxes in video games are Random Reward Mechanisms that “hook” players and keep them wanting to play more. Although it feels like the player is in control, the mechanism is actually random, and the randomness makes it feel like gambling. Rewards allow players to advance or add value or status within the game.
  • 67% of households own a device used to play video games.
  • The average gamer is 35 years old.
  • In Seoul, South Korea, e-gaming can be watched at a stadium.
  • Women tend to play social games, such as Words With Friends, many of which have in-app purchases. A 1-800 Gambler hot-line caller reported that his wife had lost $50,000 playing Wheel of Fortune.
  • 53 % of gamers play multi-player games at least once a week, spending an average of six hours playing with others online and five hours playing with others in person.
  • The earlier one starts gaming and gambling, the higher the likelihood of developing a problem.

In addition to Trolaro’s presentation, COCA also recognized the winners of a student poster contest on the theme of Gaming and Gambling. The first place entry is below:

NEWS: Disposal bag initiative coming to Berks

 A Safe Alternative for Medication Disposal

Disposal bag initiative coming to Berks


Reading, PA: A major drug problem in the United States is not on the streets – it is in your home. Medicine cabinets continue to be a source of drug abuse. To help keep your family protected it is important to safely dispose of unused and expired medications. Twenty-nine medication drop boxes are currently located throughout Berks County, but for some, getting to a drop box location may not be possible. A new program will provide an alternative option for Berks residents.

SOS Berks, the Berks Opioid Coalition, will be distributing medication disposal bags to individuals who are homebound and need to dispose of unused and expired medications.  “The medication disposal bag is yet one more weapon at our disposal to fight the opioid overdose epidemic” states Commissioner Kevin S. Barnhardt, Co-Chair of SOS Berks.  “These bags allow for the safe disposal of medications that may otherwise end up in the hands of our children and grandchildren.” The medication disposal bags are made available through funds from the Berks County Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities Program.

Beginning this spring, the Council on Chemical Abuse (COCA), in collaboration with the Berks County Office of Aging, will coordinate outreach and education programs to home health care programs and senior centers.  Dr. Edward B. Michalik, Executive Director of the Berks County Office of Aging indicated that the medication disposal bags would be especially helpful for those seniors who are homebound and may not be able to safely dispose of their unused medications. According to Dr. Michalik, the medication disposal bags, together with awareness materials, will be disseminated specifically to seniors unable to access the medication drop boxes.

This initiative is part of a comprehensive plan developed by SOS Berks to assist county residents in the disposal of unused medications. SOS Berks began in 2016 with a focus on reducing overdose deaths related to opioids. Efforts of the coalition have spread to include community safety related to opioids, including medication safety. Visit their Facebook page at to learn more.

For more information about this program, please contact Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz at (610) 376-8669, Ext. 112 or



About Council on the Chemical Abuse (COCA)

Established in 1972 by a group of community members, the Council on Chemical Abuse was formed as a private non-profit organization to address rising concerns of drug and alcohol use in Berks County. The Berks County Commissioners contract with the Council on Chemical Abuse (COCA) as the Single County Authority for Berks County, PA. As the coordinating agency for publicly supported drug and alcohol programming in the county, COCA and its partners provide an array of prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery services. More information can be found at



Does Underage Drinking Cause Anxiety?

It’s well known that underage drinking poses serious health risks for teens. Now, new research suggests that early alcohol exposure can come back to haunt a person later in life.

A recent study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, identified a link between alcohol consumption in adolescents and later increased anxiety in adulthood.

The study looked at changes in the brains of rats who were administered alcohol as adolescents, as compared to those who were not exposed to alcohol. The animals that were given alcohol demonstrated changes in the brain that made them susceptible to anxiety as adults.

“These findings provide a better understanding of how adolescent alcohol exposure can lead to life-long biomolecular changes that increase the risk for adult-onset psychiatric disorders,” said the study’s leader Subhash C. Pandey Ph.D, professor and director of the NIAAA-funded Alcohol Research Center in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Senior Research Career Scientist at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago.

This research provides important evidence of the long-range impacts of underage drinking, adding to an existing body of research that shows that exposure to alcohol at a young age can be particularly detrimental.

At COCA, Prevention Specialist Sarah Billman works with teens through our UDecide Program, educating them on the problems associated with underage drinking.

“Alcohol use has the ability to cause structural changes to an immature brain.  The human brain is still growing and developing into the mid-20’s.  Introducing a mood altering substance, like alcohol, to that developing brain can alter the way the brain works.  And the substance does not need to be taken in large quantities in order to do damage,” Billman cautioned.

If you are concerned about the alcohol use of a teen you know, you can refer them to our UDecide Program. This program is an opportunity for young adults to learn the facts about alcohol, marijuana, and other addictive substances. CLICK HERE for more details.

Request for Proposal: Website Re-Design

The Council on Chemical Abuse (COCA) is planning a website redesign in 2019. Our current website is not meeting our needs and we are seeking proposals from website design agencies who can help us achieve our goals with a new website.  The awarded agency will be responsible for creating  an attractive, mobile-friendly, site on a WordPress platform that utilizes best management practices and provides intuitive navigation and clear messaging about who we are and what we do.

Anticipated Selection Schedule

  • March 18, 2019 – RFP Application opens at noon
  • April 2, 2019 – Questions about RFP submitted by NOON to Laura Catalano via email at
  • April 10, 2019 – Answers provided via email to all those who requested the RFP.
  • May 1, 2019 – RFP Application closes at 4:00 p.m.
  • May 13-20, 2019 – Interviews with agencies in final selection for RFP award
  • June 11 – Announcement of awarded agency

Due to the overwhelming response, we are no longer accepting online requests to receive the RFP for this project.  Completed proposals are due by May 1, 2019 at 4:00 p.m.

NEWS: Download our new Vaping & JUULing Toolkit

What is vaping? What is JUULing? There are many reasons why health professionals are concerned about the rise in youth using these products. One of them being that e-cigarette devices contain the drug nicotine, and for young users, nicotine can set them up for a lifetime of addiction.

We invite you to DOWNLOAD the Berks County, PA Vaping Toolkit to learn more. Inside you will find fact sheets and local data, as well as tips and resources for parents, educators and healthcare professionals. This toolkit was adapted from the original version made by our friends in Montgomery County.

Related posts:

NEWS –  Nicotine: As Addictive as Heroin and Marketed to Teens

Want to quit vaping or JUULing? Join a tobacco cessation class for FREE with COCA. VIEW the upcoming class schedule.

Watch a recent show with Teresa Detweiler, Prevention Specialist about nicotine, vaping and JUULing.

Would you like COCA to come to your school or community group to talk about Vaping & JUULing? Please fill out the form below to request a prevention education presentation.

Presentation Request Form

Please fill out this form to submit a request for a presentation from the Council on Chemical Abuse. Should you have any questions, please contact Jaclyn Steed, Prevention Program Manager,, (610)376-8669, Ext. 107.
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