Steered Straight

Michael DeLeon of Steered Straight talks frankly about drug use to parents and guardians at Linwood United Methodist Church on June 8.

Suzanne Marino

LINWOOD – Mike DeLeon of Vineland pulls no punches about how his life has been turned around. He admits he was a pariah on society, but that was then, and this is now.

“Prison saved my life,” said DeLeon. He was a gang member, incarcerated for a dozen years and a drug user. But life behind bars was not the future he wanted. He credits his family, his religion and his desire to keep young people from heading down the same destructive path as what led him to establish Steered Straight, a drug awareness initiative.

DeLeon addressed several dozen parents from the surrounding mainland communities Thursday, June 8 at the Linwood United Methodist Church in an evening sponsored by the Linwood Police Department and the Municipal Alliance and shared the message of the Steered Straight program.

Steered Straight is a drug prevention program that tackles the drug issues with which kids are bombarded. His "Table Talks," or conversation starters, give parents or guardians jumping -off points on how to start conversations and how to keep them going. He teaches them about good relationships,how to know when they are in an unhealthy one, how to get involved with kids and how to maintain that involvement.

He gave staggering statistics about the number of young people dying from heroin and fentanyl-laced heroin. The fentanyl is being mass produced in chemical labs in places like Camden and mixed with heroin. The result is deadly.

“They don’t have a chance with the heroin that is being sold right now. It is not if they are going to die, it is when they are going to die. If they continue to use heroin, it will kill them,” DeLeon bluntly told the adults in the audience.

He has gone back to college and obtained certification as a drug counselor. DeLeon said he attends way too many funerals of young people with bright futures who are dead from heroin and fentanyl. 

He made a middle-school version of his Steered Straight presentation at Belhaven several weeks ago. Principal Susan Speirs said, “His presentation to the kids was very impactful. Afterwards he gave them time for questions which was very helpful. One question was quite interesting, and I never thought about. He had talked about all the doors he closed to himself through drug use and felony charges resulting in time in prison. Doors such as how he can never be a teacher, policeman, etc.. One student asked if he can vote. He said he cannot in six states. The kids really reacted to that. They seemed to understand that using drugs is not a choice for a day; they could be making a choice for a lifetime.” Speirs recommended the program for both schools and communities and said no one will walk out of there without learning something important about keeping our kids safe.

Charles Kerley of the Municipal Alliance also presented at LUMC. He spoke of a program offered by the alliance called "Just in Case," a free Narcan training initiative.

“With the rapid increase of overdoses in the area anyone who has training will be able to administer Narcan to someone who may have overdosed on drugs,” said Kerley. He also advised that all of the Atlantic County offices that are equipped with an AED now have Narcan inside of the red AED box that is normally mounted conspicuously in the building.

To learn more about Steered Straight or to check out the Table Talks suggested for families to reconnect and talk about what is important, go to

Contact: 609-601-5197 

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