New Addiction Prevention Initiative Launched in Babylon Long Island During COVID-19

Babylon Cares, a new initiative created to prevent alcohol and drug addiction in the community of Babylon, was launched on Tuesday, February 2. Babylon Cares was created in response to a lack of awareness about addiction prevention in the community, according to the founder of Babylon Cares, Lori Novello. The program will serve as a resource to host diversion programs and community events that will “create a more protective environment for all” according to their website.

Babylon community members gather to shoot a promotional video for the launch of Babylon Cares. Photo courtesy of Lori Novello.

Both Novello and the Program Director of Babylon Cares, Nikola Segoloni, also are active in these respective roles for the program LindyCares, which serves the same function as Babylon Cares, but within the communities surrounding Lindenhurst.

How LindyCares Success Inspired the Creation of Babylon Cares

In 2019, after surveying and conducting research, the LindyCares team found that there was a “considerable drop” in reported alcohol usage rates from youth in the community of Lindenhurst, says Novello. “Once we had this data to show that we had created effective change, Nikola and I came together so we could write the Babylon Cares partnership grant.”

Since Babylon Cares is funded by a grant, they have to be strategic about how they use their funds, and Novello and Segoloni talk about the effectiveness of a logic model — a plan of action that helps them stay on track to achieve their goals throughout the year. Most of the funding, Segoloni says, goes toward getting training for individuals who want to contribute to the movement. These training sessions include Training for Intervention Procedures, or TIPS, and the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, or CADCA, the leading and most recognized substance abuse prevention and advocacy organization in the US and abroad.

One of the goals of Babylon Cares is to “create an online hub where all the community organizations and coalitions can submit their projects, describing the challenges and processes for improvement to support a resource collection of best practices,” according to a press release from Babylon Cares. According to Novello, they will use this online hub as a resource center for coalitions across the nation so they can teach other community leaders about how to effectively spread the message of addiction prevention and healthy coping skills. “By bolstering the continuum of care, we can create an environment where everyone can thrive,” says Novello.

“The grant aims to bring prevention to the town of Babylon, but also to enhance skills of our community members so that we can create some sort of sustainability within the program,” says Segoloni.

Babylon community members give a “thumbs up” at the wrap of their video shoot. Photo courtesy of Lori Novello.

How Does COVID-19 Relate to Addiction Prevention?

Steve Chassman, Executive Director of Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, says that this program launch couldn’t have come at a better time and that LICADD fully supports the work that LindyCares, and now Babylon Cares, is doing. “We know some of the statistics about overdose, suicide, mental health, anxiety, and they’re not good,” he says. He stresses the value of healthy coping strategies, especially in a time of national insecurity — which is why he thinks the creation of Babylon Cares was so timely in the community.

Chassman spoke on his opposition to the new legalization of marijuana during a pandemic. “It screams a little ‘self-medication,” he said. “It’s like, ‘hey, I know you’re socially isolated… I know you’re scared, but we’re going to legalize marijuana for you.’ It’s a very convoluted message, especially for kids.” Similarly, he discusses the government claiming liquor stores as “essential businesses” during the pandemic. “What’s the messaging there from a public health standpoint?” Chassman asks.

“By bolstering the continuum of care, we can create an environment where everyone can thrive.”

Lori Novello and other Babylon community members enlighten their audience on the dangers of substance abuse, especially for the youth.

One event that Novello put on in August of 2020 that directly combats drug usage in the community was a “drug takeback,” in which members of the community could drive up to a station set up in a parking lot and safely dispose of drugs laying around in their household. Novello says they did this because it is an evidence-based proven strategy to remove drugs from neighborhoods. Overall, they collected about 165 lbs of drugs on that day, says Segoloni.

The overarching goal for the Babylon Cares team is to create a safe and positive environment for the members of the community while ensuring that their message of prevention is sustained for years to come. With the help of their five-year grant, they believe this to be possible, especially with the help of youth in the community. “The youth are the ones who really want to advocate, which is good because those are the people everyone wants to listen to,” says Novello.

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