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BERNARDSVILLE – Community in Crisis (CiC), a local non-profit organization, has been awarded a federal Strategic Prevention Framework – Partnerships for Success grant totaling $1.5 million, or $300,000 per year for five years, through 2025.

The grant is funded by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Center (SAMHSA) for Substance Abuse Prevention. The purpose of the program is to prevent the onset and reduce the progression of substance misuse and its related problems, while strengthening prevention at the community level.

The program is intended to address one of the nation’s top substance use and misuse prevention priorities.

CiC’s “Partnerships for Success’’ project will serve the five towns of the Somerset Hills by enhancing the community’s capacity and infrastructure to target the under 30 year old population with comprehensive strategies to prevent early initiation of substance use – nicotine and marijuana, in particular – promote non-use, and encourage early intervention.

The goal is to significantly change community norms and attitudes on youth substance use through a rigorous strategic planning process and collaboration with community and county partners, according to CiC Executive Director Andi Williams.

Community In Crisis Safe Coalition

Williams said the grant will enable a comprehensive “deep dive’’ into the trends and behaviors of those under 30 year old, collecting and analyzing data from community stakeholders and residents.

She said she hopes the community will be willing participants in the surveys and interviews that CiC will conduct.

“Ultimately, the more informed we are of what’s going on in the lives of our youth and young adults, the better we can address risk factors to build a healthier and safer community in which to live,” Williams said.

Specifically, the project goals are to:

  • Improve CiC’s capabilities by collecting and reporting data on community level substance use and attitudes in order to evaluate the effectiveness of programs and policies;
  • Expand the role of youth to be equal partners in the development of data-based prevention messaging and strategies and to ensure dissemination of those messages;
  • Expand parent and community engagement to implement comprehensive, evidence-informed prevention strategies to change the culture of substance use;
  • Strengthen the capacity at the community level – healthcare providers, schools and community members – to prevent the onset and reduce the progression of substance use and misuse through screening.

The latter goal strives to identify youths and young adults misusing substances, or at risk of substance misuse, to provide appropriate interventions.

‘Get The Pulse’

To implement and oversee the grant, three new positions at CiC were filled: Susan Visser was hired as the grant’s project manager; Paige Nielsen as the youth coordinator; and Amy Harris, from Epiphany Community Services, as the epidemiologist overseeing community and program data collection and analysis.

“This is an important milestone for our community and its youth,’’ Visser said. “This funding will allow us to truly get the pulse on community substance use and current norms in the Somerset Hills which, in turn, will direct our initiatives and ultimate goals to achieve a healthier, more informed community of youth and families.”

For more information on the program, contact Toni Knoll at

CiC began in 2013 following the overdose deaths of two young adults in the Somerset Hills. A coalition of community agencies, organizations, schools, churches and concerned citizens, the organization offers bi-weekly support groups for families struggling with addiction, innovative educational opportunities in the school environment, medicine take-back days, town hall meetings, and more.

Based at 9 Church St. in Bernardsville, its mission is to lead and unite communities to reduce the incidence and consequences of the misuse of substances through education, prevention and holistic support in an environment free of stigma.

For more information or to get involved with CiC, email or visit