Advocate & Inspire Others

This week I turn over the blog to Donna DeStefano, a New Jersey parent who has been a tremendous advocate for prevention, treatment and recovery in response to her daughter’s journey to recovery. For the past few years, Donna has been leading an effort to earn legislative approval for “Support Recovery” license plates that New Jersey residents can purchase with the proceeds going to recovery resources. Donna has worked tirelessly to move this effort forward and has been a great partner of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey.


By Donna DeStefano

The other day I was preparing for a presentation that I really was looking forward to at the Mercer Council Prevention Coalition meeting.

As a former Director for the Prevention Coalition of Monmouth County through Prevention First, I know how hard the staff works to engage their members, who are all volunteers. They come from all different sectors of the community, including faith-based, law enforcement, education, parents, providers of mental health, treatment and prevention and anyone else who has a passion or interest in drug prevention.

As I gathered my materials and talking points, I knew that I would talk about my family’s story and how we coped with the struggles of my daughter’s heroin addiction and recovery, but I also wanted to talk about the importance of advocacy.

We all know that as a group we can accomplish a lot. Just like they say, the word team stands for “Together Everyone Achieves More.” What we don’t sometimes realize is that even one person can make a difference. It can come from a simple idea, but the problem with most ideas is that they require action. You might not know exactly where to start or how to implement the idea, so it sometimes just remains an idea. That is so sad!

I’ve found that if you take steps to get there, reach out for support, ask questions, do the research and go after it like a junkyard dog, it just might happen! You have to be consistent. People will tell you that you’re crazy and that it’ll never happen. They’ll tell you it’s a dumb idea, that it can’t be done, that it doesn’t make sense. Don’t get discouraged! You’ll have setbacks and disappointments, but believe me it’s worth it.

This is how great things get done! This is how you can be part of the solution! You can’t be worried about failure. You might fail! So what? You tried. Go on to the next idea.

I can’t tell you how many ideas I thought were golden that just didn’t work. Wouldn’t you rather try for something you believe in than wish or wonder if it could’ve worked? You have to be willing to speak your mind, throw it out to the universe and take a chance. Get your butts out there and make a difference!

I spoke to the coalition members and told them exactly how I was able to get Bill S-469 for New Jersey “Support Recovery” license plates introduced. It took a lot of footwork, research, support, funding and partnerships, but I’m making it happen. The “P.I.C.K. Awareness Act” is currently close to being a reality.

On December 17, Jim Appleton, the President of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, State Senator Vin Gopal and I met with State Senator Paul Sarlo at the State House in Trenton. We gave him all the information needed to assure him that this bill will not cost the state one dollar, so we can pass this through to Senate for consideration. After speaking with him we were able to get his commitment. The bill needs to get through this committee so it can post for a vote in the Senate. I won’t rest until this gets done and we help the thousands of people suffering from substance use disorders who need sober living options. Homelessness is a true barrier to recovery. This population needs this bill passed. The money raised will bring a sorely needed sustainable funding model to this problem. It makes sense!

We have 486 signatures and heart-wrenching comments supporting this bill on and over 500 hand-signed signatures on our petitions bringing the total to over 900.

If you’d like to sign and support our petition you can do it by clicking here.

Please consider writing to Senator Sarlo or calling his office to urge him to get Bill S-469 on the calendar ASAP so it can post in the Senate for a vote!

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