Archive for the ‘News’ Category

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

June 26, 2019

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.


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

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