Alan R. Mack Speaker Series...

TBH: The Truth about Alcohol and Drug Use

No judgment. No assumptions. Just education.



Thursday, December 7, 2017

7 - 9 pm

Mayerson JCC - Amberley Room

8485 Ridge Road Cincinnati, OH 45236


Watch the video    Press release

Press release


December 11, 2017


Jewish Family Service program shared expert advice on Teen Alcohol and Drug use


“Talk to your kids. Talk about when things hurt. Grief. Loss. Bad times. And good times. Teach them about resilience, and how to deal with stress in a healthy way. Let them know that bad times will always pass and drugs are never a solution.”


This was the passionate plea from Chief Tom Synan, Co-Chair of Hamilton County Heroin Coalition, who spoke Thursday, December 7, 2017 at “TBH: The Truth About Drug and Alcohol Use,” a free community program presented by Jewish Family Service Alan R. Mack Speakers Series. Amberley Village Police and Fire, Hamilton County Heroin Coalition, and Lumiere Healing Center were sponsoring partners.


Chief Synan helped form the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition after watching an entire family die one by one over a period of years from drugs, the last being a 12 year old boy. “The problem with

society is that we are reactive to issues rather than proactive,” Synan explains. He had seen the increasing effects of drugs before it became headline news. “We have to keep communication open with our kids so they feel comfortable sharing anything. We need to be proactive and get to them while they are still young and willing to listen.”


Joining Chief Synan on stage was Dr. Daniel Nelson, Child Psychiatrist, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital; Julie Buckner, President of Josh E. Levine Foundation and Parent of a child who died

after mixing a prescription drug and alcohol; and Emcee Scotty Mays, Stand-Up Comedian, Person in long-term recovery, and Alumni Coordinator at Lumiere Healing Center.


Dr. Nelson shared why teens are likely to try alcohol and drugs, even when they don’t necessarily want to. He explained that sometimes kids try alcohol and drugs out of an impulse to belong, or to deal with an acute frustration. Other times it is simply out of curiosity. “Teens have a natural curiosity, but because the judgment center of their brain is still developing and not yet fully mature, it is harder for them to escape peer pressure or make smart choices.” He reiterated that this is why parents need to practice with their kids how to get out of uncomfortable situations.


A 2016 report by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows 12-21 year olds drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the US. More than 90% by binge drinking. Dr. Nelson explains how dangerous and common binge drinking is among teens and young adults. He explained the importance of being aware in these situations and how speaking up could potentially save a friend’s life saying, “Drinking too much too quickly can be deadly. When teens and young adults pass out, their peers think they are just sleeping and do not recognize it as alcohol poisoning. They may be just 30 to 40 minutes away from dying."


Mrs. Buckner shared the emotional story of her son who died of acute alcohol intoxication in conjunction with Adderall. “He was just a normal kid. He drank as college kids often do, and I thought he would outgrow it as his brothers did. He never got the chance,” she said. Her son Josh was a three sport varsity athlete in high school, a Sports Management major at the University of Michigan, a field manager for the Michigan football team, and about to follow his passion coaching and teaching kids. After a night out with friends and taking Adderall to stay awake, he was found unresponsive on a Chicago sidewalk. He was brain dead when he arrived at the hospital.


Had Josh fully known the dangers of mixing alcohol and drugs, Julie wonders if he would be alive today. “Adderall is a stimulant that keeps you awake and won’t let you pass out from drinking too much,” she said. “This can cause alcohol poisoning or a heart attack.”


The TBH in the title stands for To Be Honest, as this program was designed to be an open, honest discussion without judgment or assumptions. To end the evening, both parents and teens had the opportunity to ask questions during a breakout session. Parents met with Chief Synan and Dr. Nelson who answered a variety of questions on how to keep kids safe. Teens also had the opportunity to ask questions they may have not felt comfortable asking in front of their parents, and received honest answers from Mays, who personally knows the struggle of addiction, and Buckner.


“I wish we had a program like this when I was growing up,” said Mays. “Maybe my life would have turned out different had I been more educated on what alcohol and drugs can really do to you.”


Debi Varland, Jewish Family Service Education Manager said, “We are proud to strengthen lives in the community by offering programs such as this.”


Jewish Family Service is a 501c nonprofit social service agency that strengthens lives in times of need. Its Alan R. Mack Speaker Series feature expert speakers covering a wide variety of relevant and provocative topics affecting our daily lives.


On a related topic, Jewish Family Service will present a free community program, Addiction: Shedding the Shame and Stigma, with renowned addiction expert and TEDx speaker Dr. Adi Jaffe Thursday March 15, 2018. Professionals also will be able to earn 6 CEs and learn how to reduce shame through a client centered approach when Jewish Family Service presents Alternative Approaches to Addiction with Dr. Jaffe on Friday, March 16, 2018. Information can be found at


Jewish Family Service receives funding in part from Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, and United Way of Greater Cincinnati. Interim Healthcare is a 2017 Agency Sponsor.

Local & national experts, dynamic speakers and interactive breakout sessions including:

Emcee Scotty Mays

Stand-up Comedian and Person in long-term recovery

Dr. Daniel Nelson

Child Psychiatrist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital

Chief Tom Synan

Co-Chair of Hamilton County Heroin Coalition

Julie Buckner

Parent and President of

Josh E. Levine Foundation

In partnership with:


Questions? Email or leave a message at 513-766-3303





Jewish Family Service educates teens on the truth about alcohol and drug use.


To help teens make informed decisions about using, mixing, and sharing alcohol and drugs, Jewish Family Service is presenting TBH: The Truth about Alcohol and Drug Use, a Free community program, 7-9 pm, Thursday, December 7, 2017 at Mayerson JCC, 8485 Ridge Road, Amberley, OH, 45236.  Jewish Family Service is presenting this in partnership with Amberley Village Police and Fire, Hamilton County Heroin Coalition, and Lumiere Healing Center.


“No judgment. No assumptions. Just education,” Debi Varland, Jewish Family Service Education Manager, says about the event. “In a perfect world, teens and young adults would already understand the inherent risks of alcohol and drugs, and not chance injury - or even death - for choices they make while their brains aren’t fully developed. But TBH (to be honest), we know this world isn't perfect.”


The evening will feature local and national experts, dynamic speakers, and interactive breakout sessions. Stand-up comedian and Person in long-term recovery, Scotty Mays, will emcee the event. Other Panel experts include Dr. Daniel Nelson, Child Psychiatrist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital; Chief Tom Synan, Co-Chair of Hamilton County Heroin Coalition; and Julie Buckner, Parent and President of Josh E. Levine Foundation.


To begin the evening Dr. Nelson will share valid facts and helpful tools to help both teens and parents. He will focus on how a child’s brain works, why children are likely to succumb to peer pressure, important skill sets that will help teens get out of difficult situations, why it is important to talk to our kids about alcohol and drugs, and why – even when you think your child would never use alcohol or drugs – teens are at risk for trying them even when they do not want to.


“All of us are challenged by the conflicts within our own thoughts and feelings,” says Dr. Nelson. “It’s never too early to learn how our internal negotiation can lead to healthy outcomes.”


Dr. Nelson has been a child psychiatrist for more than 30 years. He speaks locally at community events, and also teaches courses on a variety of topics pertaining to early childhood psychiatry education. Beyond child psychiatry, Dr. Nelson has also spent the last 5 years working with clients who suffer from alcohol and drug addiction.


The audience will also hear from Chief Synan who will share the alarming statistics of teen alcohol and drug use, and the dangers that impose with certain drugs. Synan’s goal is to make sure teens have the correct facts so that they can make informed decisions. This includes the effects of mixing drugs and alcohol, which drugs are at a higher risk for addiction, and why prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as “street drugs.”


To offer a better understanding of how important it is for teens and young adults to fully educate themselves on this topic, Julie Buckner will share the tragic story of her son’s death as a result of co-ingesting alcohol and drugs. She will focus on the risks of mixing alcohol and stimulants in hopes of changing the binge drinking culture among high school and college students.


A 2016 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that although drinking by persons under the age of 21 is illegal, people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States. More than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks.


According to the National Institute of Health, young adults (age 18-25) are the biggest abusers of prescription (Rx) opioid pain relievers, ADHD stimulants, and anti-anxiety drugs. In 2014, more than 1,700 young adults died from prescription drug (mostly opioid) overdoses, which is a 4-fold increase from 5 years prior.  


Also, an August 16, 2017 CNN report by Nadia Kounang shared data from the National Center for Health Statistics showing the rate of teen (ages 15 to 19) drug overdose deaths in the United States climbed 19% from 2014 to 2015 - most of which were unintentional and driven primarily by opioids. 


“Our mission at Jewish Family Service is to strengthen lives in times of need, and these statistics emphasize that there is a need now to have an open non-judgmental discussion on this important topic," says Varland. "It’s troubling to think that if kids had proper education about the long-term effects of alcohol and drugs, then maybe they would choose not to try them in the first place.”


Varland encourages teens, young adults, parents, and teachers to join the community for this relevant conversation.


“Together we will learn valid and informed facts, understand the complexity of alcohol and drug use, break down stigmas and dispel rumors,” says Varland. “Our goal for the evening is to change the message, become involved, and take action so the teens and young adults in our community will be safe.



Register for this free event at For questions, contact Debi Varland at 513-766-3303 or