Addiction Policy Forum Launches California Chapter to Help Californian Families Impacted by the Opioid Crisis

June 25, 2018 | Addiction Policy Forum
For Immediate Release                                                                                                                           Contact:
June 25, 2018                                                                                                                              Athena Naranjo                                                                                                                                    athena@addictionpolicy,org                                                                                                                              

Addiction Policy Forum Launches California Chapter to Help Californian Families Impacted by the Opioid Crisis
State chairs Athena Naranjo and Jill Ditlevsen will spearhead statewide efforts

VENTURA, Cali., June 25, 2018 — The Addiction Policy Forum (APF) announced today the launch of its California chapter, led by state chairs Athena Naranjo (Ventura) and Jill Ditlevsen (Santa Cruz). The chapter will focus on helping families in crisis and expanding prevention, treatment and recovery across the Golden State.

More than 21 million Americans are suffering from addiction. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that 174 lives were lost daily to drug overdose in 2016—the equivalent of a plane crash every day. California has been hit hard by this epidemic. In 2016, the state saw more than 4,600 deaths from drug overdoses, and opioids accounted for 43 percent of those fatalities.

“Leaders and families in California have done a tremendous amount of work to address addiction in communities throughout the state, and we applaud their efforts,” said Jessica Hulsey Nickel, president and chief executive officer of the Addiction Policy Forum. “Earlier this year, we learned that 63,600 people died of a drug overdose nationwide in 2016. It is clear more services, treatment and support are needed to help those struggling with substance use disorder. We look forward to working with a broad group of stakeholders to stem the tide of addiction in California.”

APF understands the need to provide families throughout the country with better resources, as well as to help communities develop and implement targeted solutions to address the impact of substance use disorder. The California chapter will work on education, prevention, treatment, recovery, overdose reversal and criminal justice issues to ensure the full spectrum of solutions is being deployed. The chapter will engage a wide range of stakeholders to create specific action plans, initiate new collaborations and deploy additional localized resources for the direct benefit of all Californians.

These efforts will be co-led by APF’s California state chair, Athena Naranjo, who resides in Ventura, CA. She has been involved in the addiction field since 2007 where she worked for the non-profit, Project Safer, as a preventionist. Since entering the field, she has become a certified substance use disorder counselor through the California Association for Alcohol/Drug Educators (CAADE). Currently, Athena is a non-reciprocal Licensed Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LAADC) and Internationally Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ICADC) through California Consortium of Addiction Programs and professionals (CCAPP).

“As an individual in long-term recovery and a Clinical Director at Genesis Programs Inc., I look forward to bringing my experiences and education to the Addiction Policy Forum California State Chapter and helping develop solutions that meet the needs of people in our state,” said Athena.

Jill Ditlevsen will co-lead the state chapter along with Athena. Jill became involved in the field of addiction when she realized her sons Shawn and Paul were battling the disease. Since educating herself on the science of addiction, she has been driven to help bring change in the community, lift the stigma surrounding addiction and help families by locating resources for themselves and their loved ones. Currently, Jill is a member of Learn2Cope and A New PATH and the Moms United Foundation.

“I’ve spent years navigating insurance and treatment for both of my sons that are currently struggling with substance use disorder,” said Jill.  "From those experiences and being actively involved advocating for criminal justice reform in Santa Cruz, I'm excited to implement APF's strategic priorities in California."

APF’s eight strategic priorities include:

  • Help Families in Crisis: Provide new, effective resources and support for patients and families in crisis. 
  • Expand Treatment Access and Integration into Healthcare: Through partnerships and research, develop resources, protocols and tools for physicians, healthcare systems and the workforce to integrate treatment of substance use disorders into healthcare.
  • Drive Discovery: Invest in research on how to treat, prevent and cure addiction and its related disorders. 
  • Expand Recovery Support: Properly prioritize and secure resources for the recovery support programs that individuals need in their communities. 
  • Prevention:Increase funding for and the number of prevention programs in California and nationwide.
  • Protect Children Impacted by Parental Substance Use Disorder: Expand resources to support children who have a family member with a substance use disorder.
  • Reframe the Criminal Justice System: Partner with key stakeholders to re-envision how the criminal justice system responds to addiction.
  • Advocate and Educate: Intensify the urgency around addiction and mobilize bold action through advocacy and engagement.


About Addiction Policy Forum

The Addiction Policy Forum is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 2015 as a diverse partnership of organizations, policymakers and stakeholders committed to working together to elevate awareness around addiction, and to improve programs and policy through a comprehensive response that includes prevention, treatment, recovery and criminal justice reform. Jessica Hulsey Nickel, whose own family was devastated by addiction, is the founder of a coalition of 1,700 families impacted by substance use disorders and is available for further explanation and interviews by media.


More information on our mission and projects is available at

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