Miss Ramapo Valley #SpeakingOutLouder

Lauren Staub is not your typical Jersey Girl. Throughout her reign as Miss Ramapo Valley, she tackles an issue that is rarely discussed towards young adults: Drug/Opioid Addiction. Her platform titled ““It Starts with a Script”: Tackling the Opioid Epidemic” gives her the opportunity to be the voice on this major epidemic affecting young adults. I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing her talking about her platform.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your hobbies, and your education.
I am a 23 year old classical singer, music teacher, and small business owner. I received my Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from Montclair State University, John J. Cali School of Music. I am the Owner of The Party Fairy, LLC, a children’s entertainment company that provides princesses and different characters to children’s parties and events. I also have the opportunity to teach private voice and piano lessons. In my spare time I enjoy working out; two of my favorite workouts are running and Pure Barre. Miss Ramapo Valley was my first pageant ever and I was fortunate enough to be crowned! On stage at the Miss New Jersey Pageant I was awarded $2800 in scholarships at the Miss New Jersey Pageant. I won the “Miss America Community Service Award”, “Miss New Jersey Community Service Award”, “Non-Finalist Talent Award”, “Training Aspects; Move, Look, Feel Fitness Award” and the “Miss New Jersey Rookie Award.”

Please describe your platform ““It Starts with a Script”: Tackling the Opioid Epidemic,” from Miss NJ 2017.
Far too often people find themselves addicted to painkillers after an injury. Because they are “legal”, many people are unaware of the danger associated with prescription opioid drugs and can become addicted in a relatively small amount of time. Furthermore, people of all ages falsely believe that because they are prescribed by a doctor, they are safe to take; whether the prescription is theirs or not. That is why prescription opioid drug abuse has been on a steady rise for many years and as a result, why heroin has emerged as a cheaper alternative. Due to its accessibility and affordability, there are an estimated 130,000 heroin users in New Jersey alone, and drug overdoses are now New Jersey’s leading cause of accidental deaths. In fact, Ocean County’s problem has become so grave that they have experienced periods within which there is a heroin death every 43 hours. This problem is now a national crisis and needs immediate attention and resolve. While it is true that the statistics are dismal and we are in a very bad place with this epidemic, all is not hopeless and recovery is possible.

How serious is the issue of Substance Abuse in the United States?
We have a major opioid crisis in this country and New Jersey is suffering as a result. As a titleholder or Miss New Jersey, you have a large megaphone that can be used to help reduce the stigma associated with substance use disorder and hopefully be a significant force in battling this rapidly growing problem.

What approach can we take as society to increase Opioid Awareness?
The first step is understanding that Addiction is an illness- not a moral failure. Yet, the stigma attached to addiction silences many people who might otherwise be inclined to ask for help. I believe that having influential people from the community, such as Miss New Jersey, advocating and supporting recovery, would hold a tremendous amount of weight toward ending the stigma associated with this disease. Developing outreach programs that are aimed at opening up dialogue with students, parents and educators about the dangers associated with prescription opioids is a top priority. Encouraging community leaders to better educate the public on ways to safely and properly dispose of unused medications. Finally we can utilize social media as a way to inform others about events, fundraisers, support groups, and forums.

Is there any advice you would give to others who promote Drug/Opioid addiction?
That the first step would be to get involved with local organizations within your community! As Miss Ramapo Valley, I have had the opportunity to volunteer with organizations across New Jersey that are doing amazing work toward alleviating this problem. The Tigger House, Hunterdon Recovery Center, City of Angels and Families against Addiction are four of the organizations with whom I have formed relationships. I have volunteered my time for numerous fundraisers and was appointed Monmouth County’s coordinator for Knock-Out Opioid Abuse Day sponsored by The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey. I had the privilege of being invited to a Candlelight Vigil, hosted by Governor Christie, on the front steps of the New Jersey State House, which was a call for action to eliminate the stigma surrounding this disease. I also had the honor of speaking at the Fed Up! Rally in Morristown, where I was recognized by Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty, for my service. With the organization City of Angels, I participated in “Pancakes with Elsa Fundraiser” which received great press and was hugely successful. But there is much more to do.

What was the driving force encouraging you to get involved?
I have had two friends become addicted to opioid painkillers and graduate to heroin. One has found success in recovery. The other is gone. Different outcomes with one noticeable beginning: “It started with a script.”

What are your next goals after competing in Miss NJ?
To continue to grow my business. I am also actively pursuing my study and career in classical singing. In the future, I plan on becoming a Certified Recovery coach, with a scholarship I was granted by The City Of Angels, a great organization that tackles addiction within NJ.

What advice would you give to prospective females who want to compete in pageantry and chose Drug/Opioid addiction as their platform?
That it isn’t a “soft platform”. You will find yourself around parents who carry the pain of losing a child, you will meet those in recovery, and those who are still struggling. Understanding addiction isn’t always an easy thing, so I would encourage those prospective females to educate themselves as much as possible, and to approach those they meet with understanding and respect. I encourage females to chose this platform, as I can think of no greater way to move the Miss America Program forward then to have a state titleholder working on an issue as important and relevant as our national drug problem. With over 40 million Americans affected, this is an opportunity for the Miss America Organization to help end the way we look at addiction. A voice associated with Miss America has the power to reach more people and save
more lives.

This blog post was created in collaboration with Wellness By Ramona, a health and wellness company dedicated to your well-being.