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Personal Experience Fuels Eastchester Woman's Work With Substance Abuse

Eastchester's Joan Bonsignore is the Executive Director of the Westchester chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.
Eastchester's Joan Bonsignore is the Executive Director of the Westchester chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Photo Credit: Contributed

EASTCHESTER, N.Y. -- Eastchester resident Joan Bonsignore is committed to helping individuals and families to understand and overcome the powerful disease of substance abuse and addiction.

As Executive Director of the Westchester chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in White Plains, Bonsignore oversees an organization that is dedicated to education and prevention, while also making referrals to treatment programs.

Over the years, the Council has helped to thousands of individuals in the Westchester County community struggling with drug or alcohol dependence.

“This is not a moral issue,” Bonsignore said of substance addiction. “It’s a disease. No one ‘wants’ to have it. And these people need help.”

This founding mother of the NCADD/Westchester, Bonsignore is credited with resurrecting the local chapter in 2001. Her passion for wanting to see the program revived emanated from a very personal place. “The Council saved my life,” she said.

It was in 1988 when Bonsignore experienced both personal catastrophe and resulting epiphany. Years of alcohol abuse and addiction to prescription pills finally caught up with her. “I bottomed out,” she said. “I was desperate and lost; I had no idea how to survive. I couldn’t live, and I couldn’t die. No doctor could help me. But I was able to rebuild myself through the grace of God.”

Inspired by Betty Ford, the former First Lady who struggled for years with alcoholism, Bonsignore sought help. “Betty Ford’s story led me to seek an evaluation at the National Council on Alcoholism/Westchester,” Bonsignore said. ““My life was saved through this evaluation.I am here today, and I am supposed to do this work.”

Bonsignore’s work at the NCADD/Westchester includes focusing on educating the community and affected families; providing information on determining who is at risk for addiction; recognizing the signs of addiction; making referrals to medical and therapeutic professionals; and helping to remove the stigma attached to substance abuse.

Education plays a major role at the NCADD/Westchester as well. The CASAC (Credentialed Alcohol Substance Abuse Counselor) program is a 350-hour course that enables students to graduate and become licensed substance abuse counselors. The course is held at Mercy College in White Plains.

Education children is also an important part of the group’s overall mission. “With substance abuse, the soul of the family is destroyed,” she said  She believes educational programs enlighten young and old alike, and serve as a powerful deterrent to addiction.

Bonsignore said the motivation for her dedication to prevention, intervention and support is a simple one: “We’re helping people to get their lives back,” she states. “My journey is to be here, and to do this work.” When it comes to addiction and finding a pathway toward healing, one tenet is particularly accurate. “The truth,” she declares, “is what sets people free.”

NCADD/Westchester is a not-for-profit organization that relies on the support of individuals and corporations for much of its funding. For more information, visit: www.ncaddwestchester.org.

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