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A game of beer pong placed besides the game Candy Land in a local drug store. A machine-gun shaped bottle of liquor. A security officer standing guard next to a prescription drug drop-off box in Walgreens. These are a few examples of the dozens of photos taken by local community members using a new mobile app called “Be The One.” Prevention specialists hope the app will help paint a picture of the conditions that protect citizens– or put then at risk – for substance abuse.

The app, developed by researchers at the Rutgers School of Social Work (SSW) and prevention specialists at the New Jersey Prevention Network, is part of a federal prevention effort known as Partnerships for Success. Funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the initiative aims to encourage the development of local solutions to addiction issues.

“The photos assist with data collection that helps to identify trends and give researchers a more accurate understanding of where abuse exists among young users,” says Kristen Powell Gilmore, principal investigator on the project at the Rutgers School of Social Work who has been working with SSW professor N. Andrew Peterson, to integrate research and environmental prevention practices for more than eight year

The Be The One app incorporates many of the central goals of the partnership initiative. On one level, the app asks users to “Be The One” to share their views, literally, by snapping photos of anything related to drug or alcohol use in their community – positive or negative. Users may search for images by county and upload photos anonymously. In turn, these pictures are analyzed by the Rutgers/NJPN research team and regional coalition members. From the community images, members of local coalitions formed to prevent abuse – are able to assess where their efforts are working and address gaps in their current prevention services.

Read more here.