TOMS RIVER – As a part of the widespread effort to raise awareness of the opioid and heroin crisis, a New Jersey school and a local non-profit organization joined forces to put forth their own unique contribution to the cause.
The Raymond J. Lesniak Recovery High School partnered with HOPE Sheds Light to present a screening of the addiction and codependency awareness documentary, “ASK,” on Dec. 14 at Ocean County College. The event included a screening of the film as well as a brief question and answer session with the filmmakers, Julie and Kurt Neale.
“We want to reach every person that we can touch,” said Steve Willis, co-founder of the local non-profit organization HOPE Sheds Light.
Presented by the non-profit Prevention Links and Capacity Images, “ASK” tells the story of various individuals who have struggled with either addiction to drugs and alcohol, or the lesser-known evil of codependency. The documentary explores aspects of addiction from the perspectives of those who have lived it and have come out the other side. It also highlights the disease of codependency, the illness that befalls the loved ones affected by the addicts in their lives. Essential to the family-driven perspective of HOPE’s mission, the film sheds light on how addiction is not solitary and has rippling effects on the families involved.
The documentary brought together individuals from the Lesniak School and HOPE, as well as students and interested members of the community.
“Film is a medium that everyone can get into,” and can help both organizations reach a larger audience, said Chris Capaci of Capacity Images.
The Lesniak school is a recovery high school in Union, New Jersey that was founded by Prevention Links to, “provide a high-quality educational, enrichment, and recovery support program that offers a safe, sober and supportive school environment where students and their recovery efforts are understood, valued and fostered,” according to the school’s mission statement. All proceeds from the film event went towards funding programs at the Lesniak School, said Morgan Thompson, Director of Academic and Recovery Support at Prevention Links.
Pam Capaci, CEO of the Lesniak School, noted that this is the first one of its kind here in New Jersey and there is the possibility of expansion to Monmouth County and Cape May now that the school has found financial support with the government. The school has the capacity for 30 students, said Capaci, but the number of students usually sits around 10. The school is meant as a halfway point between treatment and returning to high school for students in recovery. They provide programs, sober activities, and mentor counselors for students on a daily schedule similar to a normal high school itinerary, said Capaci.
HOPE Sheds Light is a local non-profit organization founded nearly five years ago by three men who all have personal connections to the disease of addiction. The mission of HOPE is to provide support and education to families affected by Heroin, Opioids, and Prescription drugs. This is where the acronym HOPE derives from.
“We want to share the power of our stories,” said Willis, who lost his son to addiction.
The goal of HOPE is to create partnerships for their cause to raise awareness. By joining up with the Lesniak School, the partnership hopes to cover more ground and educate more people on the diseases of addiction and codependency.