Substance abuse awareness efforts expand statewide

GEORGETOWN — At the local, county and now, state level, Delaware is going purple against substance abuse and opioid addiction that is claiming lives and devastating families in epidemic proportion.

Sussex County Council Tuesday’s agreed to ante up $5,000 — matching last year’s pledge — for the Sussex County Substance Abuse Prevention Project, part of the growing Delaware Goes Purple campaign.

“Let’s not let people get addicted to begin with,” Peggy Geisler, executive director of the Sussex County Health Coalition said in her presentation to council.
“There was close to 400 (overdose) deaths in the state last year. This year we are losing people at a rate of about one per day.
“This is a tragedy that can be avoided and prevented. That is what the Delaware Goes Purple initiative is about.”
Delaware Goes Purple is a statewide initiative spearheaded by the Sussex County Health Coalition based in Georgetown.

In 2018, SCHC led efforts in Sussex County to begin to reduce the stigma of addictions, inspired by The Herren Project and the Talbot County Go Purple campaign in Maryland.

This initiative, which initially included the city of Seaford and Sussex County, now encompasses groups working in New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties.

Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long is honorary chair of Delaware Goes Purple and a strong advocate and supporter of behavioral health care access and substance abuse prevention in the state.

There are approximately 200 business partners onboard statewide, with close to 100 of those partners in Sussex County, Ms. Geisler said.

Partners include all four major healthcare entities — Beebe Healthcare, Bayhealth, Christiana Care Health System and Nanticoke Health Services.
“It is not just about an awareness campaign. It is really about using that information so people to understand where they can treatment, where they can get support, where they can get help,” said Ms. Geisler.
She added the goal is prevention and getting “everybody on the same page when it comes to taking a stand substance abuse.”

Prevention is structured around education and one option is implementation of the Botvin LifeSkills Training developed by Dr. Gilbert J. Botvin, an internationally known expert on prevention and health behavior, in schools.

“Personally, I would like to see Botvin in all of our schools,” said Ms. Geisler.

She noted Dr. Botvin, a longtime Cornell University professor, was in Seaford last May for Botvin Day of Hope and a special salute to the coalition and Sussex County in the Go Purple movement.
“He recognized us nationally as the first organization and community to use youth to teach other youth how to stay clean and prevent using any kind of substance …,” Ms. Geisler said. “Sussex County is a pioneer in this arena.”

Last year, upward of 600 people attending a mega-event at Crossroad Community Church in Georgetown heard the heartbreaking true-life story of Herren Project founder, Chris Herren, a gifted high school and collegiate basketball player whose rise to stardom paralleled his substance abuse addiction that nearly cost him his life.

“I will say that I attended the event at the Crossroads, with Chris Herren … it is touching. It really is,” said Sussex County Council president Michael Vincent.
Hundreds of people may get that chance Wednesday, Oct. 9 as Delaware State University in Dover will be the staging venue for The Chris Herren Story.
“Because of the demand we’ve moved it this year to Delaware State University, for free,” said Ms. Geisler.

The Oct. 9 event at DSU can accommodate up to 900 people.
Doors open at 6 p.m. and the program starts at 7 p.m. For free tickets, visit:

In long-term recovery since 2008, Mr. Herren – who played professionally two years in the NBA with Denver and Boston before playing in Europe and Asia into 2006 – inspires people to initiate conversation on wellness and educate themselves on the disease of addiction.
“It would be great if every youth in this county could hear him speak and realize what you can go through; somebody who had everything and ended up in the street with nothing,” said Mr. Vincent. “And how he survived, it’s amazing. It’s quite a story.”

Join the movement
There are numerous ways to be part of the Delaware Goes Purple movement.
• Form a Delaware Goes Purple Club; organize a 5K Purple Walk/Run; Purple Youth Ambassadors;
• Gather items for Blessing Bags;
• Engage athletic teams, band, and student council/government to “Go Purple”; invite speakers to team practices; spread the message- volunteer to give a “Purple Talk.”
• Bring Botvin Prevention Education into the school.
• Sponsor advertising and media; campaign gear for local students; financial support;
• Turn the town or city purple (lights, fountains, banners).
• Sponsor an event, gear for events or financial support;
• Sponsor banners for businesses, schools and faith-based communities.
Faith-Based Entities
• Host a Purple event; sponsor or attend a 5K Purple Walk/Run;
• Share messages of support in service program.
• Wear Purple gear, support Purple events and school-based Purple events.
More information
For more information about Delaware Goes Purple, visit or follow DGP on Facebook at www.facebook/DelawareGoesPurple.

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