By Matt Schickling
Wire Staff Writer
Three years ago, Kim Rubenstein started a conversation that she will not end.
In May 2011, under the guidance of the Hatboro-Horsham School District, Rubenstein introduced Be A Part of the Conversation, a “non-traditional substance abuse-prevention forum,” into the community. Now, she’s seeking nonprofit status and extending the discussion to other communities and school districts.
“We have the opportunity to expand and not just under the umbrella of the school district,” Rubenstein said. “Now that we are our own entity, it’s not a Hatboro-Horsham event, it’s a Be A Part of the Conversation event.”
She’s speaking specifically about the regular community events hosted by the organization, of which there have been about 13 thus far. There is an annual Conversation Forum, where people directly affected by drug abuse are able to speak candidly about their experiences in panel-style presentation. There have also been several presentations given by professionals in topics ranging from prescription drug abuse to the impact of technology on young people.
In addition to these, there is a weekly meeting every Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Hatboro Real Estate office, 253 S. York Road, called the Parent Partnership. Here, parents of substance abusers or of those in recovery can share their experiences in a stigma-free environment.
“No one’s going to get well if they’re hiding from it,” Rubenstein said. “Parents are more comfortable talking to other parents who have had children with substance abuse problems. They can understand and commiserate and have empathy.”
It’s something Rubenstein can understand: her son has four and a half years sober. Her family had to get educated about substance abuse, and reach out to others for help. She calls it “a positive journey” because she now has the capacity to help others, and part of that is removing the stigma attached to talking about substance abuse.
“People who are alcoholics or substance users have a lot of shame. There’s family members who feel judged because they raised somebody who has these issues,” she said. “We never lecture anyone, we literally want them in the conversation.”
With this all-inclusive approach, Rubenstein could not limit the conversation to Hatboro-Horsham School District. Over the past year, she and Curtis Griffin, superintendent of the district, collaborated on the best way to expand Be A Part of the Conversation. Rubenstein spoke at superintendent meetings, and Griffin shared information about the program amongst his peers.
“This program is not only good for Hatboro-Horsham, it’s good for everybody,” he said in a statement.
John Mergenthaler, president of the organization’s board of directors, oversees a lot of the logistical actions in expanding Be A Part of the Conversation. He has been involved in Rubenstein’s efforts in the past and calls her “a true leader” and “highly committed” to her cause.
“There’s been some solid success in our own community that we’ve seen. The next logical extension is to take this proven methodology more broadly across other communities,” he said. “Right now, the vision is not to take it nationally, but beyond just Hatboro-Horsham.”
But until then, the program will move forward locally with community-focused events. On Sept. 27, it will be involved in a “Drug Take-Back” initiative with Horsham Police at the Giant in Horsham. In January, the Be A Part of the Conversation will hold the fourth annual Conversation Forum, where a panel of three young adults in recovery will share their experiences with substance abuse.
“The long-term goal is to get out there as much as we can,” Rubenstein said. “It’s really just to talk about it, put a light on it, to talk about the things no one wants to talk about.”
For more information on Be A Part of the Conversation, visit www.conversation.zone.