Northern Berkshire Community Coalition

Organizing and supporting the Northern Berkshire community for over 34 years!

New website coming soon!

nb21 (not before 21, not in Northern Berkshire) is a community organizing program designed to reduce teens’ underage drinking and marijuana use, as well as the overall incidence of addiction in North Berkshire.

We engage and educate the community to help prevent underage use of alcohol, marijuana, and illegal drugs. Prevention is a key strategy to reduce addiction in our community. We promote education about the consequences of substance misuse, harm reduction services, and offer peer led, community support programs for substance use that support the many paths to recovery.

Our recently launched media campaign encourages parents to start talking to their kids about alcohol by age 9, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. View our PSAs by clicking here, and the posters here.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, please contact Wendy Penner at 413-663-7588 or e-mail at


 Tips and Resources for

Talking with Your Kids

Prevention Work

Community Initiatives

Prevention, Treatment

and Recovery


 Drug Information and

 How to Get Help

Beacon Recovery
Community Center

nbCC is proud to announce the pilot release of Family Conversation Cards, a deck of cards meant to encourage and promote discussion and healthy decision-making between youth and parents.

Studies demonstrate that young people who can openly communicate with their parents on a regular basis—and feel like they are being heard—are less likely to engage in a wide range of risky behaviors, and that these benefits extend after high school. While talking openly with your children can be difficult, research shows that as children enter early adolescence, they are less likely to disclose aspects about their life to their parents, so creating ways to have healthy communication is especially important.

All questions can be asked by a parent or child. Questions are color-coded green, yellow or red:

  • Green questions are meant to get you talking.
  • Yellow questions involve more self-disclosure.
  • Red questions may be a deeper exploration into sensitive topics such as personal values and choices.

The purpose of the cards is not to identify right and wrong answers but to spark conversation.

Additional Resources

For any of the conversations you'll have, it’s reasonable and likely that you will want more resources. Please call nbCC for support and reference the resources below.

General parent support resources

Youth development and mental health

Tips on family bonding (fun things to do, value of family bonding activities)


Sex and healthy decision-making

Gender identity and sexual orientation

Media literacy

Social media use

Substance use prevention and other health-related resources

General health and well-being




















Three examples:

nbCC is looking for families (and professionals who work with families with adolescents) who would be interested in participating in the Family Conversation Cards pilot program and offering feedback on the cards. Interested? Contact Wendy Penner at 413-663-7588 or


Research shows that the main reason that kids don’t use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs is because of their parents -- because of their positive influence and because they don’t want to disappoint them. That’s why it is so important that parents build a strong relationship with their kids, and talk to them about alcohol, marijuana and other drug use – Parents should start talking to their kids about alcohol by age 9!

Below are a few ways you can build a positive relationship with your kids, and start talking to them about drugs.

Note: “Drugs” refers to alcohol, marijuana, e-cigarettes/vaping, tobacco, and illegal drugs.

Click each tip below to learn more.

  • 1) Establish and maintain good communication with your children.

    Why? The better you know your children, the easier it will be to guide them towards positive activities and friendships.



    • Talk to your children every day. Share what happened to you and ask what happened to them during the day.
    • Ask questions that kids can’t answer with “yes” or “no,” such as “what was your favorite part of the day.” Ask your children their opinions and include them in making decisions. Show your children that you value their thoughts and input.
    • Be ready to talk to your children as early as the fourth grade, when they may first feel peer pressure to experiment with alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends beginning to talk with your child about alcohol at age 9.
    • Listen to your child’s or teen’s concerns non-judgmentally. Repeat them to make clear that you understand. Don’t preach.
  • 2) Get involved in your children’s lives.

    Why? Young people are less likely to get involved with drugs when caring adults are a part of their life.



    • Spend time doing something your children want to do every day.
    • Support your children’s activities by attending special events, like school sponsored events, recitals and games, and praising them for their efforts.
    • Help your children manage problems by asking what is wrong when they seem upset and letting them know you are there to help.
  • 3) Make clear rules and enforce them consistently.

    Why? Research shows that when parents set harsh rules or no rules, kids are more likely to try drugs.



    • Discuss rules, expectations, and consequences in advance.

    • If a rule is broken, be sure to enforce the consequences. This teaches children to take responsibility for their actions.

    • Give praise when your children follow rules and meet expectations.

  • 4) Be a positive role model.

    Why? Children imitate adults.



    • Demonstrate ways to solve problems, have fun, and manage stress without using alcohol or drugs.
    • Point out examples of irresponsible behavior, such as ones you see in movies or hear in music.
    • Remember that you set the example. Avoid contradictions between your words and your actions. If you use alcohol or marijuana, do so in moderation, try not to smoke cigarettes especially around your child, and never abuse drugs.
  • 5) Help your children choose friends wisely.

    Why? When children have friends who don’t engage in risky behaviors, they are likely to resist them too.



    • Help your kids feel comfortable in social situations.

    • Get to know your children’s friends and their families.

    • Involve your children in positive group activities, such as sports teams, scouting troops, and after school programs.

  • 6) Talk to your children about alcohol, marijuana and other drugs.

    Why? When parents talk to their kids early and often about alcohol, marijuana and other substance abuse, kids are less likely to try drugs.



    • Short discussions go a long way. Engage your children in a conversation. Ask what they know, how they feel, and what they think about the issue.
    • Talk to your children one-on-one and together.
    • Educate yourself about alcohol, marijuana, vaping, tobacco, and drug use before talking to your children. You will lose credibility if you don’t have your facts right. (click on the "Drug Information and How to Get Help" tab for more information)
    • Set some time aside for you and your child to act out scenarios in which one person tries to pressure another to drink alcohol, smoke, or use a drug. Figure out two or three ways to handle each situation and talk about which works best.



    • Any time you spend together is the perfect time for a conversation.
    • Establish an ongoing conversation rather than giving a one-time speech.
  • 7) What should I say?

    • Explain the effects of drugs on the body and the legal consequences of using drugs.
    • Make it clear that you don’t want your kids to use drugs and that you will be disappointed if they do.
    • Discuss why using drugs isn’t okay. Explain that it’s against the law for a child or teen to use alcohol, marijuana or cigarettes and that using drugs is always illegal—for good reason.
    • Explain how drug use can hurt people in several ways—for example, the transmission of AIDS through shared needles, slowed growth, impaired coordination, accidents.
    • Discuss the legal issues. A conviction for a drug offense can lead to time in prison or cost someone a job, driver’s license, or college loan.
    • If any of your children have tried drugs, be honest about your disappointment, but emphasize that you still love them.


        Give your kids a way out of difficult situations: Click here to learn a great way to help your child do this.

  • 8) Mistakes happen.

    If your child does experiment with alcohol, marijuana or other drugs, it’s important to keep communicating with your child and let them know you care about them and are concerned about the choices they are making, rather than focus on any anger or disappointment you may feel. Listen to their reasons and talk about then calmly. There are more resources on how to talk to your kids here. You can also seek support from the Massachusetts Substance Abuse Helpline at 800-327-5050, or locally from The Brien Center.


    Online resources include:

Get Frequently Asked Questions about youth substance use here.

We use five main strategies in our prevention work. Click each of the following strategies to learn more.

  • 1) Support schools in using education and substance screening to prevent and reduce substance misuse.

    The Botvin Life Skills curriculum is being implemented at schools across North Berkshire. This is an evidence-based curriculum shown to reduce drug and alcohol misuse. It includes curricula for elementary, middle and high school. Click here to learn more.


    Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) focuses on prevention, early detection, risk assessment, brief counselling and referral for assessment that can be utilized in the school setting. Use of a validated screening tool will enable school health teams to detect risk for substance use related problems and brief intervention strategies will help to address these concerns at an early stage in adolescents. Click here to learn more.

  • 2) Support pediatricians in providing age appropriate prevention information to parents and patients.

    Northern Berkshire Pediatrics provides information concerning prevention of alcohol, marijuana and other drug use to parents at well-child visits beginning at age 9. This is to help parents and youth alike understand the health risks of early use of substances, and to support healthy communication on this topic. Because young peoples’ brains are still developing, early use can have damaging effects on healthy brain development. In addition, early use can increase the risk for developing a substance dependency. It’s not every kid, but it could be any kid.

  • 3) Support youth workers to receive information, training, and resources to promote healthy decision making by youth.

    The people who work with our youth such as coaches, group leaders, and instructors can provide influence and support to them in making healthy choices.  Nb21 works with our UNITY staff and the Northern Berkshire Youth Collaborative to ensure youth workers across the region have access to information, resources and training to help them guide and reinforce healthy decision making by our youth.

  • 4) Parent education and engagement through classes, public forums, and working to create a positive supportive environment for parents.

    Research shows parents are the most important factor in children’s decisions not to drink and use marijuana. We offer programming and information to support parents in having healthy family communication about alcohol and drug use. We offer Guiding Good Choices, a 5-session evidence-based curriculum for parents of children age 9-14 that promotes healthy family communication. This class is offered by The Family Place. We also work to create safe and supportive environments where parents can ask questions, get information, and connect with other parents to support raising healthy children.

  • 5) Media campaign to change community laws and create positive norms.

    To create an environment where EVERYONE is supporting healthy choices for youth, a media campaign was developed to engage the entire community. It is starts with messages to encourage parents to have healthy communication with their children pertaining to substance use.


    Research shows that the main reason that kids don’t use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs is because of their parents -- because of their positive influence and because they don’t want to disappoint them. That’s why it is so important that parents build a strong relationship with their kids, and talk to them about alcohol, marijuana and other drug use.


    Our media campaign encourages parents to start talking to their kids about alcohol by age 9, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. View our PSAs by clicking here, and the posters here.

nb21 Task Force: Through the umbrella of our nb21 program, we support all aspects of addressing health issues pertaining to substance use including prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery. To learn more about this issue or to become part of the work groups, contact Wendy Penner at

Rx Heroin Work Group: This diverse group includes community leaders, medical and mental health professionals, first responders, people in active recovery, and family members who have suffered from the substance abuse disorders of loved ones.

Youth Prevention Work Group: nb21 implements evidence based strategies to reduce underage drinking and marijuana use across north Berkshire. All are welcome to attend our meetings.

Berkshire Youth Development Project (BYDP):  nb21 partners with BYDP to survey youth across the county on the risk and protective factors in their lives.  This survey is called the Prevention Needs Assessment Survey and has been administered collaboratively since 2006. You can find our most recent data here.

Stop! In the Name of Health: nb21 has joined with Mass in Motion to host a monthly prevention show. Topics range from substance use prevention to active living, healthy eating, oral hygiene and more!  Watch our show on Northern Berkshire Community Television!

Berkshire Opioid Abuse Prevention Collaborative (BOAPC):  nb21 partners with BOAPC to enhance community education on the opioid and other drug issue in our region.  We partner in community education about the use and misuse of opioids, coordinate trainings on this subject for opioid prescribers and work with health educators to enhance their knowledge and curricula around this topic.

Voices for Recovery Film: nbCC produced a short film, Voices for Recovery, a sequel to last year's FACES: Five Stories from One Community. It stresses how a community can come together to respond and adapt to the opioid epidemic and begin to build a community that supports recovery.

nb21 has created several brochures to encourage community education and awareness on the issue of substance use.  Hard copies of these resources are available at the nbCC offices. For a list of our other resource guides, click here.

Berkshire County Substance Use Recovery Resource Guide - Contains a list of local support groups, helplines, Detox Centers, Outpatient Programs and Residential Long-Term Treatment Program.

Prevent Misuse of Prescription Drugs - This brochure contains a list of commonly misused medications and explains the steps everyone can take to reduce the misuse of prescription drugs.

Download now

24/7 Medication Drop Boxes and Syringe Disposal - Contains a list of Berkshire County sites to drop off unwanted/unused medications and syringes.

Many of these resources are available in hard copy form in the nbCC office. Many educational materials can be obtained from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Health Promotion Clearinghouse. Click here.

The Beacon Recovery Community Center is a new program of Northern Berkshire Community Coalition (nbCC) to provide peer support to those seeking recovery from addiction. BRCC is a peer-led effort that provides support groups, connections to networks that can assist anyone seeking recovery, and opportunities to socialize with others.


While Covid-19 restrictions are in place:



If you could use, or share, some support related to addiction or just being overwhelmed right now,  please join our ZOOM meeting on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, from 1:30 - 2:30.


Link and call-in information:


MEETING ID #:  878 9287 2269



312 626 6799

929 205 6099

301 715 8592

346 248 7799

669 900 6833

253 215 8782


MEETING ID #: 878 9287 2269


If you have questions or difficulties logging in, please call nbCC at 413-663-7588.  It's a great meeting, and we look forward to "seeing" you soon.



On Wednesdays, the BRCC is hosted at Terra Nova Church/The Green, 85 Main Street, North Adams.



 12:45pm Doors Open

1:00pm - 2:00pm All-Recovery meeting

Please stay home if you are not feeling well. Masks and/or face shields are available and are required.


For additional information, please contact Wendy at or call 413-663-7588. Watch the nbCC Facebook page for updates on our calendar and programs.

61 Main Street, Suite 218  |  North Adams. MA 01247  |  Tel: (413) 663-7588  |  Fax: (413) 663-9877