On April 7, 2017, all students across every grade at Ridge High School attended daytime presentations at the Ridge High School Performing Arts Center to hear a story of despair, hope and recovery. Former NBA star, Chris Herren, recounted his journey of drug addiction that ruined his career and nearly lost him his life. Mike Robertson, Somerset County Prosecutor, was also in attendance.

Students listened intently, some of them overcome with emotion, as Herren talked of issues surrounding self-confidence, self-esteem, mental health and peer pressure. It was that stress and pressure that he felt during his high school years, he stated, that led him to drink and smoke pot as a coping mechanism. Herren went on to praise kids who feel they can socialize and cope without getting high.

Community in Crisis, a local 501(c)3 grassroots movement of volunteers dedicated to providing education and raising awareness of substance use disorder and preventing overdose deaths, sponsored the event. A significant part of the funding came from a fundraising event held in March for young adults in NYC, organized by Ridge graduates, Amanda Sabatelle and Rob Monastero, out of concern about the impact of the epidemic locally. Ridge Youth Sports, Inc. (RYSI), was also a supporting partner. Steve Mueller, Chairman of RYSI, commented, “Supporting this initiative to educate high school students about the dangers of prescription pills and heroin falls right in our wheelhouse. We here at RYSI promote a lifestyle of healthy choices and peer support, and Chris Herren’s message of addiction and recovery is powerful and memorable. We applaud the multi-faceted work of Community in Crisis to heighten awareness of this epidemic and are honored to be supporters of this event.” Herren’s latest appearance marked the second time that Community in Crisis had supported his visit to Bernards Township. During an evening in December 2015, Herren spoke to a close to capacity audience of parents and children. Its impact left residents and parents hopeful that students at the high school could hear his message during the school day thereby reaching a larger key audience.

Jean O’Connell, Treasurer of Community in Crisis added, “We are grateful to the school district for supporting our goal of bringing Mr. Herren in front of the children. They have become valuable partners in our mission to help this community navigate the opiate epidemic that is gripping the country. Without their help and the dedicated support of so many volunteers in this community, our work would be much more daunting. We urge everyone to join us and be a part of positive change.”

Community in Crisis is a coalition of community agencies, organizations, schools, churches and concerned citizens that is made up of several working groups. For more information or to get involved, please contact Community in Crisis at info@communityincrisis.org.