Aerial shot of campus.

Changing Lives in Paterson

Students from Paterson wearing caps and gowns

For many, life is hard in Paterson, New Jersey — a city confronting problems from extreme poverty and rising crime to substance abuse. It can be a difficult place to grow up.

P-CASA — the Paterson Coalition Against Substance Abuse — works to stop alcohol, tobacco and drug use among the city’s young people through outreach, education, community empowerment and collaboration, with help from Montclair State faculty.

P-CASA efforts are supported by a 10-year, $1.25 million Drug-Free Communities grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. According to Robert Reid, P-CASA director and a Montclair State Family Science and Human Development professor, the DFC grant was awarded in two funding cycles, with the most recent $625,000 cycle providing support from 2018 to 2023. P-CASA surveys detail how difficult life is for youth in the city: 30 percent said they used alcohol before the age of 13; 43 percent don’t believe marijuana increases risk of harmful consequences; and prescription drugs are increasingly popular among teens.

“These funds enable us to continue working with and within the Paterson community to eliminate underage substance use — and to reduce the negative outcomes of these behaviors,” says Reid.

He notes that strong partnerships with Paterson students, parents, civic associations, faith-based organizations, schools, social service agencies, law enforcement and media are moving the city toward positive outcomes, including reduced access to alcohol for minors and increased awareness of the dangers of teen substance use.

During the current five-year project period, Reid anticipates that P-CASA will reach more than 37,500 individuals through substance abuse prevention activities and programs designed to further increase community collaborations and reduce alcohol, marijuana and prescription drug abuse among 12- to 17-year-olds.