St. Bernard Anti-drug Coalition tries to fight drug abuse and its toll on the parish; group urges residents to “be a life saver’’ by getting involved

Posted: September 15th, 2014 | Filed under: News Releases


Several members of the non-profit St. Bernard Community Anti-drug Coalition recently attended a national conference in Washington, D. C., to learn about community-wide procedures and programs to reduce alcohol and drug abuse.

That’s just one of the recent activities the Coalition has been involved in as it starts to take concrete steps to galvanize a parish-wide push to reduce drug abuse and the toll it takes on St. Bernard Parish.

The attendees at the national conference were Board Chairman Daniel Schneider, board member Charles Cassar of the school system and Program Director Joseph Salande. Also attending were two students from Chalmette High School, Macie Graf and Madison Martin.

More than a thousand members from different anti-drug coalitions across the country were also there.

The “Community Coalitions of America” works towards helping communities learning environmental, community-wide strategies to address alcohol and drug abuse through educational and public awareness programs.

Workshops were broken down into two segments. The primary portions were for the volunteers and staffers of the various coalitions to supply helpful information regarding reducing under-age drinking and drug abuse. The goal of the workshops were to aid the members to return to their communities with information to determine what issues relative to drug abuse are problematic in their specific areas, and how best to address those problem on a community-wide basis.

Also included in the program was the Youth Initiative workshops, whereby youth and young adults learned classroom and community-wide strategic planning to address youth drug use.

While most of our youth don’t use illicit substances, they do eventually enter a grown-up world and are exposed to dangerous behaviors from multiple sources, Schneider and Salande said. The workshops were intended to give youth the tools to deal with these challenges in the future. For additional information about the St. Bernard Community Anti-drug Coalition, check out the group on Facebook at St. Bernard Community Coalition @

A Coalition office is located in the parish government complex at 8201 West Judge Perez Drive in Chalmette and the grou’s phone number is 504-278-4308.

To receive periodic updates on Coalition activities and important information, contact Program Director Joseph Salande at to be added to our email list.

Meetings of the Coalition board are open to the public and are held at 9:30 a.m. on the second Tuesday of each month.

Starting in October, the meetings will be in a conference room at the Docville officers of the Meraux Foundation at 5128 E. St. Bernard Highway at Violet.

Residents are urged to attend and learn what they can do to take part in future events aimed at activities for young people in St. Bernard Parish. Community-wide forums on topics such as addictive disorders and resources available for families in need of finding rehab facilities for a loved one will also be held.

In the past year the Coalition has received an initial federal grant for the grou’s start-up and and a larger grant proposal is in the works. The group is also working on obtaining a 501 C-3 non-profit status that would for receiving contributions.

Coming soon, using the themes “We are all in this together,’’ and “Be a Life Saver,’’ there will be the distribution of a community resolution to churches, schools and other organizations stressing the need for a unified effort toward prevention and educuational efforts to reduce drug abuse in St. Bernard Parish.

The group’s logo will be the image of a live saver to drive home the message.

“We want people, especially students, to be advocates for change,’’ said Schneider, a pharmacist who lost his son to drug violence years ago. “We want them to have a way to share information if they see drug use. We are telling them they are saving a life.’’

Sheriff James Pohlmann is part of the Coalition and has stressed a need to change the culture attitude that it is cool to use drugs. It is drug use that drives property crimes as addicts steal to get money for their next high. The sheriff has emphasized the need to get help for users and imprison those who sell drugs.

Like most of the nation as a whole, St. Bernard has also experienced an increase in youth alcohol abuse, illicit drug use and prescription medication abuse. With that increase comes the increased potential for crime in our neighborhoods, disruption of families, and an overall negative effect on the culture of St. Bernard Parish.

The St. Bernard Community Anti-drug Coalition was founded more than a year ago by Schneider.

Working with Sheriff Pohlmann, they could see that more could be done to address the drug abuse problem in St. Bernard.

While the school system, law enforcement, mental health agencies and volunteer agencies do exemplary work combating these issues within their own sectors, one large gap is that all these groups work independently of each other without any one organization working in tandem and collaborating with all these groups.

A year ago, through the efforts of these individuals, a federal grant was applied for and received from SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) to organize, and put into place the infrastructure to form a fully functional community-wide anti-drug coalition.

That is where the St. Bernard Community Coalition came into being.

Officials said a goal of the Coalition is to aid our citizens to gain information about and access to resources available.

Primarily, this group is a drug prevention organization which has and will continue to collect data from multiple segments of the community and identify our biggest concerns. Following that research, an action plan will be devised based on community-wide strategies to address these problems.

The best example of community-wide strategies is the anti-smoking campaigns that started years ago. According to the Centers for Disease Control, smoking rates have dropped in the United States by half from 1965 to 2006, in large part because of anti-smoking campaigns bringing attention to the health problems involved.

That was done by implementing community-wide strategies and changes by having a strong media presence, hosting local events, and even local ordinance change to effect the exposure that our youth gets to alcohol and drugs.

The St. Bernard Coalition has an Executive Committee that consists of 12 various sectors of the community with each one having their own unique perspective and skill set.

These members are: school representative, parent, law enforcement, healthcare provider, media, volunteer organization, youth, government, religious, business, mental health, and youth serving organization.

While this committee is the organizational structure of the Coalition, the largest and most important sector of this group are the citizens of St. Bernard Parish. There is no membership card required or special vote to be involved.

“This is our community and our children, and working together, we can all be life-savers,’’ Schneider said. In the future, we will have various activities, town hall meetings, events and we invite you to grow with us, he said.


Resources for drug abuse prevention or rehabilitation:

Sheriff’s Office – 271-2501; hotline for tips on suspected drug activity – 271-3673

Professional low cost drug testing: 504-278-4455

Web sites available:;

Metropolitan Human Services District state agency: 504-568-3130

24-Hour Crisis Line: 504-826-2675

Al-ateen support services: 1-800-352-9996 or 1-888-425-2666

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Helpline and Treatment: 1-800-234-0420

National Drug Information treatment and referral hotline: 1-800-662-4357

National Hopeline National network crisis line for suicide prevention: 1-800-784-2433

Youth America hotline (Counseling for teens by teens) 1-877-968-8454

Celebration Church in Arabi: 504-267-4254

Cope Line: 504-269-COPE or 1-800-749-COPE or 211

Medicaid Assistance: 1-888-6207 or,gov