PORTSMOUTH — Have you noticed Portsmouth flashing its “purple power” this week?
The Portsmouth Prevention Coalition’s week-long community-wide anti-substance abuse awareness campaign, Project Purple, runs through Friday, Jan. 31.
Project Purple is an initiative of The Herren Project, a nonprofit established by Portsmouth resident Chris Herren, a Fall River native and former NBA basketball player whose career was derailed by substance abuse. Mr. Herren detailed his life with drugs and subsequent recovery in a book he co-wrote with Bill Reynolds called “Basketball Junkie: A Memoir.”
Project Purple encourages people of all ages to stand up against substance abuse and make good decisions. Residents were encouraged to wear purple clothing and several local landmarks — including Town Hall, the police and fire stations and the library — were decorated with purple ribbons and bows.
During a proclamation ceremony Monday night, Town Council members also showed their support by wearing purple. “I’ve had this tie for 15 to 20 years,” said Council President James Seveney. “This is the first occasion I’ve had to wear it.”
Mr. Herren was at Monday’s meeting and thanked the town for its support. “There is nothing more gratifying than driving around town and seeing kids wear Project Purple shirts,” said Mr. Herren, who gives lectures around the country and is often called upon to meet with a local youth with an addiction problem. “I see the devastation on a daily basis.”
Ray Davis, coordinator of the Portsmouth Prevention Coalition, said Project Purple is needed to support youngsters who pledge to abstain from drugs or alcohol. He pointed to a comprehensive needs assessment survey the Coalition undertook last year.
“Out of that data we got an alarming number of our students … who are using or have used substances,” Mr. Davis said. “When we looked at the numbers, they’re way too high.”
According to Mr. Herren, 30 million people suffer from addiction in the United States. “Ninety percent of them start as teenagers,” he noted.
Mr. Davis said he was heartened by the support the campaign has received locally. “I’ve never seen the town get behind something like it has for this,” he said.
There’s still work to be done, however. School Committee Chairman David Croston said the district is seeking a five-year, $125,000 annual “drug-free community grant,” similar to one attained by the Town of Tiverton.
‘Purple Night’ is Friday
Portsmouth High School will sponsor a “Purple Night” during the varsity and junior varsity boys’ basketball teams’ games against North Providence at the new gym Friday night, Jan. 31. The JV game is at 5:15 p.m., with the varsity match-up set for 7 p.m.
The two teams will wear purple warm-ups before each game and the high school’s SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) Club will hand out purple ribbons. The girls’ varsity and junior varsity teams also pledged to wear purple warm-ups at their games this week.