The Army Substance Abuse Program officially opened the doors to the new Picatinny Arsenal CARES (Community Awareness Resiliency Education Support) Wellness Center during a resiliency fair held in coordination with Red Ribbon Week on Oct. 27.
PACT was created to assist in achieving personal well-being by providing a multi-use support service location. PACT is focused on community, awareness, resiliency, education support and prevention to increase positive patterns towards healthy lifestyle choices.
“Today we open the Picatinny Arsenal Cares room to build a community and create a stigma‐free mindset for all lives affected by drugs, and to help break down barriers and be mindful of your mental health,” said Amy Gopel, the installation’s Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program Manager and Employee Assistance Program Coordinator, during the ceremony just prior to the ribbon cutting that signified the room’s opening.
A proclamation signed by Picatinny Arsenal Senior Commander Brig. Gen. John T. Reim, and Garrison Commander Lt. Col. Alexander Burgos officially pledged leadership support to the center, which is open to installation employees and family members.
“There is some incredible work going on here at Team Picatinny, and this is all on the heels of the COVID pandemic. I know there are a lot of stressors on families,” said Reim. “I know that the mission here at Picatinny has also placed a lot of stressors on Team Picatinny. The expectation for excellence in all that we do in support of Congress designating us as the ‘Center of Excellence’ for all things Armaments and Ammunition, that’s an important mission for our nation and our national security. It is not lost on me, that pressure that we are placing on our workforce. “
During the celebration, artwork created by Sgt. Jorge Rivera, garrison religious funds technician, was unveiled, introducing the PACT “heroes.”
Rivera, who was also master of ceremonies for the event, created illustrations that depicted each of the key components of the PACT as superheroes. The following characters received their first public appearance before the audience in attendance.
· “Neutro,” representing nutrition was presented on behalf of the Religious Support Office
· “Philos,” representing the Army Substance Abuse Program and the Employee Assistance Coordinator Division
· “Emphasis,” representing education for the Drug Awareness and Support Division of the Army Substance Abuse Division
· “Endure,” representing fitness on behalf of the Religious Support Office
· “Adva,” representing advocacy on behalf of the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Preventions (SHARP) Program Office
· “Equa,” representing the Equal Employment Opportunity Division
· “Ethereal,” representing spirituality on behalf of the Religious Support Office
· “Ohana” representing families was presented on behalf of the Family, Moral, Welfare, and Recreation Directorate
Meet the PACT heroes - Images on Picatinny Arsenal Instagram below
To highlight the installation’s efforts with local community partners in the fight against drugs, several keynote speakers were invited to the event. Matthew Kelly, Assistant Prosecutor, Special Operations Division of the Morris County Prosecutors’ Office, and Jim Atoche, Detective Supervisor, Morris County Prosecutors’ Office, provided insight on some trends in the county and how they are responding.
In a heartfelt speech, Kathy Ferguson who detailed the tragic loss of her daughter from drug use. Ferguson said she was unaware of her daughter’s addiction and wanted the community to know that the stigma of what an addict may or may not look like, is not always present.
Additionally at the event, 54 vendor tables allowed visitor at the fair to learn about some of the services provided both on and off post.
The Red Ribbon Campaign originated in 1985 when Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, a Marine Corps veteran and police officer turned Drug Enforcement Administration agent, was murdered by drug traffickers in Guadalajara, Mexico.
“His murder would not go in vain, and angered parents and youth in communities so much that they banded together and formed a pact to wear red ribbons as an effort to signal to the drug cartels that enough was enough,” said Kristina Williams, Picatinny Arsenal’s Drug Testing Coordinator and Prevention Assistant.
Since then, the National Federation of Parents for Drug Free Youth and the DEA have spread the word of the red ribbon campaign across the globe.
“Their efforts began to take notice and the country began wearing red ribbons as a symbol to raise awareness of the killings and destruction caused by drugs in America. This event is Picatinny’s effort to bring back that same pact to fight the increasing number of lives affected by drugs in our communities and our workplace,” Williams continued.
In 1990, the Department of Defense officially began observing Red Ribbon Week to raise public awareness and mobilize communities to combat tobacco, alcohol and drug use among military personnel, civilians, and their families.
Employees who believe they may have an addiction problem should contact Amy Gopel, the installation’s Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program Manager and Employee Assistance Program Coordinator, at 973-724-4357 or for a referral. All screenings are confidential.