April 17, 2024
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April 17, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Five years ago, my husband (and co-founder of Communities Confronting Substance Use & Addiction), Etiel, stood before an audience of over 700 people and told our family’s story of addiction publicly for the first time. Aside from the myriad of people who approached us before, during and after the event to tell us their own personal stories of addiction, the moment that stands out the most is our then 17-year-old daughter telling us “now I understand.” It wasn’t until she heard us talk openly about addiction and the impact it has on the family that it finally registered what her sister (and we all) had endured. That event not only launched a greater understanding for our family and community, but was the start of what is now a not-for-profit organization primarily involved in substance use prevention education across the country among other initiatives.

In 2018, we never imagined that we would touch almost 1,000 people’s lives in one evening (another 250+ were watching the event online). In 2023, we can’t even begin to comprehend how many thousands of lives we have impacted over the last few years. Whether it was the “Behind the Bima” episode that has been watched over 11,000 times on YouTube, the thousands of faculty members and parents we have educated about substance use prevention, the hundreds of families from across the country who call us for help or join our support group, or the hundreds of people who have simply told us that we have made a difference in their lives, it is hard for us to grasp the magnitude of where we are today.

However, the most astounding number in my mind is the number of children we have reached with our prevention education programming in Jewish middle and high schools. Since the inception of our evidence-based programs in 2019, we have educated over 14,500 of our youth on the dangers of substance use and the risk of addiction through personal stories and a comprehensive differentiated program around brain development, refusal skills and resilience.

In 2019-2020, we partnered with six schools in the Bergen County area and educated almost 500 students. Three short years later, we partnered with 52 schools across the country and educated over 6,800 youth this year alone. What really brought it home for me was when I started to get calls from people in other cities — Boca Raton, Cleveland, St. Louis, San Diego, Silver Spring — saying they had heard of our prevention programming and wanted to bring CCSA to their communities.

We started with a mission to create dialogue, educate community members on the prevalence of addiction and the need to destigmatize it, and create awareness among our children on the risk of use. While the 2018 event and the subsequent efforts of CCSA may have been a catalyst, as we always say around the issue of addiction, it takes community support and awareness to effect change. It also took our total of 65+ schools to recognize the need to educate our children on this critical issue and their willingness to partner with CCSA to make a difference in prevention education.

I never fail to be moved when, after presenting at a conference or participating in a podcast, someone from the audience or a listener reaches out to me to tell me that they are in recovery and express their deep appreciation that this issue is being brought to light. The incredible relief from those suffering with addiction and their families is palpable.

It is those people whom I think of when another school reaches out, or a community asks us to speak at a shul or an event. I think of them and then I wholeheartedly thank our community partners — the schools and parents in particular – for normalizing the dialogue around the topic of substance use and addiction and, especially, for entrusting their children to us and allowing them to be educated on this important topic.


Lianne Forman, a corporate and employment lawyer by training, is the founder and executive director of Communities Confronting Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA), the organization she and her husband Etiel founded in 2018. Through their own family’s struggles and journey, they founded CCSA to eliminate stigma around addiction in Jewish communities through awareness events, support for families, and facilitating evidence-based educational programming in schools around the country. Visit www.jewishccsa.org  for more information.

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