Archive for the ‘News’ Category

COCA Opens New RISE Center

The Council on Chemical Abuse opened the new RISE Center in downtown Reading, with a ribbon cutting on September 12 followed by a Grand Opening on September 14. RISE (Recovery – Information – Support – Education) is a new facility that provides space for meetings, activities, programs and events to support individuals in recovery and their families. Located in the newly renovated ground floor of the Big Mill Apartments on 702 N. 8th St. in Reading, RISE opened with a full slate of activities already planned. Those include exercise and mindfulness classes, programs on nutrition, recovery meetings and more.

The Ribbon Cutting was attended by about 100 people including state, county and local officials. Speakers included Secretary for PA Drug and Alcohol Programs Jennifer Smith, PA Senator Judy Schwank, Berks Co. Commissioners Christian Leinbach and Kevin Barnhardt and Berks Co. DA John Adams, among others. The Grand Opening celebration drew another crowd of about 100 people who came out to tour the new facility. Click here to learn more, view a calendar of events and for links to news articles about RISE.

Facts About Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Q.What are Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs)?
A. This is an umbrella term for a range of physical, developmental, learning and behavioral disabilities that can result when mothers consume alcohol while pregnant.

Q. Is FASD rare?
A. It occurs in one newborn in 100, a rate slightly higher than autism’s one in 150.

Q.How much alcohol is safe to drink during pregnancy?
A. The U.S. Surgeon General announced in 2005 that no amount of alcohol is safe to drink during pregnancy.

Q. Is there any time during a pregnancy when it is safe to drink?
A. No. When a pregnant woman consumes alcohol, it enters her blood stream and is passed on to her child. This can occur at any point during a baby’s development.

Q.Is it safe for women to drink when they are trying to get pregnant?
A woman should stop drinking when she begins trying to get pregnant. Otherwise, she risks unintentionally exposing the baby to alcohol before she is aware that she’s pregnant.

Q. Should a woman worry about FASD if she’s not pregnant and not trying to get pregnant?
A. Women of childbearing age who are sexually active and not using contraception, could get pregnant and unintentionally expose the baby to alcohol. Talk to your health care provider about using contraception regularly.

Q. What if a woman drinks before she knows she is pregnant?
A. It’s important for a woman to let her health care provider know. Because brain growth takes places throughout pregnancy, the sooner a woman stops drinking, the better it is for her baby.

Q. If a woman drinks during pregnancy, will the baby have an FASD?
A. Because every pregnancy is different, drinking alcohol may affect one baby more than another. It is always important to share concerns about alcohol consumption during pregnancy with a health care provider.

Q. What is the cure for FASD?
A. There is no cure, but FASD is 100 percent preventable when women do not consume alcohol during pregnancy.

Learn more about FASDs here

Click here for more FAQs on pregnancy & substance use

Lung Illnesses Linked to Vaping

Vaping Lunch & Learn - COCAThe medical community is growing increasingly concerned over a spate of serious lung illnesses that have been linked to vaping.

Recently, the PA Department of Health  issued a health advisory warning clinicians about “severe acute pulmonary disease associated with vaping.” The advisory was a response to “increasing reports of lung injury, in some cases severe, which have preliminarily been associated with vaping.” In Pennsylvania, those reports came over the past several weeks from the Pittsburgh Poison Control Center.

“We are aware of at least four cases that have been treated in Pittsburgh hospitals in the last week that appear likely to be related to vaping, though the specific products are unknown at this time,” the advisory states.

In most cases, patients have reported vaping products that contain THC, although not all chemicals were not identified.

Th advisory warns clinicians to provide patients who have a history of vaping with ” patient education regarding the potential for severe lung injury.”

The advisory is part of a growing response from the medical community over concerns about serious lung illnesses related to e-cigarettes. On August 23, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated during a press briefing that “193 potential cases of of severe lung illness associated with e-cigarette product use” had been reported by 22 states. Not all those cases were confirmed, however one death was reported in Illinois.

Click here to read full PA health advisory.

SEPTEMBER: National Recovery Month

Every September, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), sponsors National Recovery Month.  Now celebrating its 30th year, Recovery Month highlights the achievements of individuals who have reclaimed their lives in long-term recovery, and honors the treatment and recovery service providers who make recovery possible. Recovery Month also promotes the message that recovery in all of its forms is possible and encourages citizens to take action to help expand and improve the availability of effective prevention, treatment, and recovery services for those in need.

Each year, Recovery Month selects a new focus and theme to spread the message and share the successes of treatment and recovery. The 2019 Recovery Month theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Together We Are Stronger,” emphasizes the need to share resources and build networks across the country to support recovery.

This year’s events for National Recovery Month include:

Saturday, September 21, 2019 – Berks County Recovery Walk

Saturday, September 28, 2019 – Soberstock event

CLICK HERE to view all the upcoming COCA events!

COCA’s Summer of Kindness

West Reading Playground celebrated their summer of kindness with a pizza party that turned out to be an act of kindness from local businesses.

Our prevention team spends the summer visiting camps, playgrounds and youth groups, teaching young people to avoid drugs, alcohol and other risky behaviors. This summer, we offered a program that focused on kindness, encouraging kids to fill “kindness buckets” with notes about daily acts of goodwill. To heighten the stakes, we promised an end-of-summer pizza party to the group that gathered the most kindness notes and #cocakindness posts on social media. While we saw many heartening examples of kindness all summer long, West Reading Playground won the contest. But our story doesn’t end there. We were elated when the acts of kindness continued–not from the children, but from the businesses in and around West Reading.

When we approached businesses for donations for the pizza party, we were overwhelmed by their response. At first, we worried that we wouldn’t have enough pizza for the 55 children who participated in the West Reading Playground summer program. Those fears proved unfounded. We received donations of pizza, funds and ice cream from seven businesses who quickly agreed to supply all that we needed for a fun, well-deserved party to celebrate a summer full of kind acts. Special thanks to: Georgio’s Pizzeria, G.N.A Ristorante, Tony’s Al Taglio, Superior Oxygen, Sweet Ride Ice Cream, Larkin Veterinary Clinic, and The Original Mama’s Pizza & Grill in Sinking Spring.

Thanks to all our sponsors (Sweet Ride Ice Cream not pictured):

Georgio’s Pizzaria

GNA Ristorante

Larkin Veterinary Clinic

Mama’s Pizza

Tony’s Al Taglio & Superior Oxygen

The kids loved the pizza and ice cream!

Testimonials to Fight the Stigma of Addiction

The Council on Chemical Abuse, in partnership with SOS Berks Opioid Coalition, has launched a new campaign to reduce the stigma associated with addiction. In June, we had our board room transformed into a film studio for a day, as a team of videographers interviewed six Berks County residents who had been impacted by addiction. Those interviewed included two people who had lost family members to overdoses and four people who are in recovery from addiction. Their stories are heartbreaking and inspiring.  You can view all the testimonials on the SOS Berks website.

The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness about the true faces of addiction and recovery, and to encourage all people to be supportive and compassionate toward those impacted by the disease of addiction. We are grateful to all those who bravely shared their difficult stories–their testimonials are crucial to helping people understand why stigma is so damaging.

Do you have a story you want to share to help fight stigma?

CLICK HERE to fill out a short questionnaire

Please note: Participants must reside or work in Berks County.

Gov. Wolf Signs 6th Opioid Disaster Declaration

In June, Governor Tom Wolf  signed the sixth renewal of his opioid disaster declaration. The original declaration was put into place in January 2018 as a mechanism for state agencies, third-party organizations and stakeholders to work collaboratively, loosen regulations that slow down access to treatment, and increase efforts on prevention, treatment, and recovery for thousands of Pennsylvanians suffering from the opioid crisis. Read more

Wanted: Testimonials that Combat Stigma

Do you have a story you are willing to share about how you or a family member were affected by the stigma associated with addiction? We’d love to hear it!

The Council on Chemical Abuse is working with SOS Berks on a new community awareness campaign to combat the stigma surrounding opioid and other substance abuse disorders.  We know that stigma can prevent people from seeking treatment for addiction. In an effort to reduce stigma in Berks County, we are seeking local individuals in recovery or their family members to share their own experiences about how stigma affected them and how they overcame it.

Selected testimonials will be shared this fall on the SOS Berks website, either as brief written stories or (for willing individuals) as short videos.

Because stigma surrounding the life-saving drug Naloxone is particularly harmful, we would love to hear from someone who specifically has a story to share about that. This is part of an upcoming Stigma Reduction Campaign to happen in Berks this fall.

Interested or know someone who is? Click here to fill out a short questionnaire.

Please note: Participants must reside or work in Berks County.

For questions or more information please contact Jennifer Kirlin @ COCA at or call 610-685-4475 (direct line).

COCA Summer Prevention Programs

Interested in having our prevention staff come to your camp or summer program? Call Paige at (610) 376-8669, Ext. 126 or email

The Council on Chemical Abuse’s Prevention Staff spends the school year teaching Berks County students to avoid drugs, alcohol, gambling, vaping and other risky behaviors. So how do they spend summer vacation? They head off to camps and recreation programs throughout Berks County, taking with them a literal bag of tricks. Using hands-on games, they engage young program participants in fun-filled activities that teach important life lessons.

“Our summer programs allow us to have fun with kids while we’re talking to them about serious topics,” explained COCA Prevention Specialist Paige Carroll.

This year, in addition to adding several new games to their repertoire, the COCA prevention team is introducing a social media campaign that fosters kindness. The #cocakindness initiative encourages participating camps and parks to fill “kindness buckets” with notes about the acts of kindness performed each day. Camp counselors can also take photos of kids being kind and upload them to social media.

“We are teaching kids about the benefits of kindness,” said Prevention Specialist Alicia Kline. “Kindness reduces stress and increases positivity.”

2019 Summer Lessons
Each session lasts about one hour and is available to Berks County parks, schools, church groups, and other summer programs at no cost.

Escape the Vape  This escape room-style game has campers solving a series of puzzles and clues to escape from an area where they are “trapped” with teens who are vaping. The sequence of activities provides lessons about the risks of vaping and skills to “escape the vape.”

Take ChargeThrough an oversized board game, COCA staff teach the dangers of marijuana and alcohol. Players roll giant dice and move through the board, attempting to collect healthy organs by completing engaging tasks such as sculpting with Play Doh, drawing, role-playing and answering questions.

Leveling upUsing a Jeopardy-themed game board, students learn about the techniques game designers use to “trick” gamers into spending more time and money on technology devices. The program educates students about the connection between gaming and gambling.

COCA’s 2019 Summer of Kindness CampaignThrough engaging and creative activities, students learn the benefits of smiling, giving compliments, and performing acts of kindness.  The session concludes with students creating a Thank You card to give to someone special in their lives.  In addition, participating parks receive a Kindness Bucket for the students to fill with acts of kindness they witness, receive, or “scatter” throughout the summer. Camp and park staff are encouraged to upload photos of students being kind to social media, using the hashtag #cocakindness.


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