Protect Families First is a Rhode Island based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that advocates for drug policies and practices that save lives, promote community health and safety, and keep families intact. 

We are an alliance of parents, young people, and community leaders who bear witness to that devastation and advocate for reforming our failed drug policies. For too long, the drug war has been fought in the name of "protecting young people" while families and neighborhoods have been crushed by punitive drug policies and a lack of real supports. We seek to educate policy makers and the general public about these important issues and galvanize broad support for reform.

Our Story

Determined to dispel the myth that the war on drugs protects young people, a group of student activists founded Protect Families First in 2012. Our mission then was the same as it is today: to spread the important message that reforming our drug policies is imperative to protecting young people, families, and the communities they live. 

Protect Families First has accomplished a great deal in since our founding. A few highlights include:

  • Training more than 2,000 at-risk opioid users and their loved ones how to prevent overdose and administer naloxone, a life-saving medication that reverses opioid overdoses; 
  • Advocating for and effectively implementing naloxone distribution to prisoners upon release through the Department of Corrections, as well as training visitors at the Department of Corrections in overdose prevention;
  • Organizing community forums, events, and workshops about the harms of the drug war and related issues such as and women's rights, racial justice, and youth education; 
  • Educating lawmakers about the benefits of a public health approach to substance use, rather than doubling down on ineffective, incarceration-based methods
  • Galvanizing support for and effectively winning the passage of a permanent and expanded Good Samaritan law to protect people who seek medical assistance at the scene of an overdose;
  • Elevating the conversation about drug policy reform in local media, including television, radio, and print outlets;

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Our Staff

Annajane Yolken, Executive Director

Annajane oversees the daily operations and long term vision of Protect Families First. She brings an interdisciplinary background of public health, social justice, and prison abolition work to the organization. She is excited to expand the understanding of "harm reduction" more broadly, also incorporating the harms that the prison industrial complex and the war on drugs perpetuate. She has held various positions across the public health and non-profit sector in Rhode Island in the areas of overdose prevention, substance abuse treatment, and HIV research, including at Thundermist Health Center and the Miriam Hospital. Annajane has an AB from Brown University and an MPH from Harvard University.

Our Board of Directors

Brad Brockmann, JD, Executive Director of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights

Brad Brockmann works to advance the health and human rights of criminal justice involved populations through education, research, and advocacy. Prior to leading the Center, Brad worked as a civil rights attorney with Prisoners' Legal Services of Massachusetts, a public interest law firm. Brad has taught courses on Social Ethics and the US prison system at Brown University, Suffolk University, and Boston College.

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Dr. David Lewis, MD, Founder of Brown University's Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies

A graduate of Brown University and Harvard Medical School, David C. Lewis, MD, is a professor of Medicine and Community Health at Brown University. In 1982 he founded the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, which he directed until 2000. He is a member of the board of directors of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, where he is vice chairman, the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse, and the Drug Policy Alliance.

Alexandria Macmadu, ScM, Senior Research Assistant at The Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights

Alex is a researcher at the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights and Brown University’s School of Public Health. Her background includes research and direct outreach around Hepatitis C, overdose, sex work, and injection drug use. Originally from rural West Virginia and a current Rhode Island resident, Alex brings valuable perspectives regarding outreach among rural populations. 

Michelle McKenzie, MPH, Senior Project Director at The Miriam Hospital

As a public health researcher at The Miriam Hospital and Brown University's Alpert Medical School, Michelle McKenzie has conducted HIV prevention research for 20 years. She serves as Director of Community Access and PONI (Preventing Overdose and Naloxone Intervention) where she provide direct services to individuals and families dealing opioid addiction. She is also a co-founder of a community-based nonprofit, Faith-Infused Recovery Efforts, and a board member of Rhode Island Communities for Addiction Recovery Efforts. 

John Prince, Community Organizer

John is an organizer with the Behind the Walls Committee at Direct Action for Rights and Equality. He is a formerly incarcerated person with a long and impressive history of grassroots organizing for the rights of currently and formerly incarcerated people. A long time resident of Providence's South Side, John has been fighting for the rights and dignity of those most impacted by the criminal justice system.

Jordan Seaberry, Community Organizer

Born and raised on the Southside of Chicago, Jordan Seaberry attended Rhode Island School of Design and became a community organizer with Direct Action for Rights and Equality after graduating. At DARE he was part of a committee organizing for prisoners' rights that achieved major milestones such as comprehensive 32(f) Probation Reform, the "Ban the Box" bill, and the Unshackling Pregnant Prisoners Bill. He currently works as the Homicide Victim Advocate at the Nonviolence Institute and is the Chairman of the minority legislation group The Univocal Commission, which recently helped win the passage of the Comprehensive Community-Police Relations Act of 2015.

 

 

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