A former Bloomingdale councilman has become the chairman of a state-based organization attempting to thwart addiction through education. Thomas Marinaro, the new board chairman for Law Enforcement Against Drugs and Violence, or L.E.A.D., said he wants to take the Allentown-based organization founded in 2014 to new heights in New Jersey and into schools worldwide.
Elected recently as board chairman in a unanimous closed-ballot vote, Marinaro is the right person to head the budding organization, said Nicholas DeMauro, L.E.A.D. chief executive officer.
“I’m proud of where our organization has gone to in such a short period of time. We’re now in 40 states,” Marinaro said. “My goal is to be in all 50.”
Already applied in schools throughout the state, L.E.A.D. uses a collective of police officers, teachers and prevention specialists to promote an anti-drug, anti-violence curriculum for students. About 3,000 partner instructors exist throughout the country. More than half are in New Jersey.
Many schools throughout North Jersey, including Wayne, Wantage and Paramus, have involved local law enforcement officials in the state-based program. Like the well-known Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, L.E.A.D. is designed to provide children with the tools to avoid illicit substances, violence and bullying. Though based around a 10-week program, Marinaro said, L.E.A.D. instruction can be tailored to fit the needs of school districts and the availability of the teachers and law enforcement officials who make it work.
The married father of two adult daughters, Marinaro, 54, served as a past councilman in Bloomingdale. He served one term and first ran for office in 2007. At the time, he was the head of the town’s Democratic club and the director of the Meadowlands Chamber of Commerce. He currently sits on the board of directors for St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation in Paterson and is a regional director for BetterWay Mortgage Company. He ran his own mortgage company before he sold it in 2020.
Marinaro first became involved with L.E.A.D. during its founding in 2014. He was encouraged by current Montclair State University Police Chief Paul Cell to get involved and ended up funding the nonprofit’s launch.
Marinaro said he was inspired to join the cause of drug prevention education by a neighbor’s son, a former standout football player and junior fireman who became addicted to opioids after an injury.
“I saw a really great kid turn to death really quickly,” he said. “Any one individual who has a serious drug issue or alcohol issue or bullying issue is one too many.”
Although the young man turned his life around, Marinaro said, the opioid epidemic has only progressed in its voracity. A record estimate of 100,306 drug overdose deaths were estimated between April 2020 and April 2021, according to a November report from the National Center for Health Statistics. The total represented a year-over-year increase of 28.5%, though New Jersey countered that trend, records show.
“There’s more of a need now than there ever has been,” Marinaro said of L.E.A.D.’s curriculum-based program. “Our goal is to be national, and it’s to be in the eyes and presence of and hearts of every child in America.
“This is the best way for law enforcement to interact with the community at a positive level,” he said.
David Zimmer is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Bloomingdale man will head L.E.A.D. NJ anti-drug education group
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