SAFE in Harlem

Safe in Harlem 3.JPG

Founder: Felecia Pullen

LMSW, CASAC-t, Ph.D Candidate and Founder of Let's Talk SAFETY, Inc., Felecia Pullen sat down with to discuss her coalition to prevent substance use and abuse. Felecia Pullen is also Founder of The Pillars, a substance abuse recovery and outreach center, which will open its doors in August of 2017. 

HH: What is the mission and structure of SAFE in Harlem?

FP: SAFE in Harlem is a 12 sector coalition of Harlem based organizations and city agencies designed to prevent substance use and abuse by teens and youth in the Central Harlem community.  Some sectors of the coalition include NYPD, NYC DOHMH, New York Institute of Technology, Harlem Hospital, Mt. Sinai Adolescent Center, Dept. of Education, and the Children's Aid Society. In 2015, the coalition received a ten-year $1.25 million grant from SAMHSA to support our efforts.

HH: Where does the coalition meet?

FP: We are a school-based coalition working in Harlem Village Academies High School and expanding our reach to work in two middle schools. In the upcoming school year, we are looking forward to providing leadership opportunities, mentorship, civic engagement and prevention services to a total of three Central Harlem schools. In October 2016, Safe in Harlem received a 5-year $1.75 million grant to build a Substance Abuse Recovery & Outreach Center called The Pillars on St. Nicholas between 124th and 125th St. The center's premise is a holistic approach to recovery and support for those loving others in active addiction. The Three PILLARS of the center are reintegration back into your own life, your family and your community. We are the only state funded organization in the borough of Manhattan, and this facility would not have been possible had I not convened partners, citywide, to execute the initiative set forth in the SAFE in Harlem action plan. 

HH: What inspired you to develop SAFE in Harlem?

FP: I established Let's Talk S.A.F.E.T.Y. before developing SAFE in Harlem. The Let's Talk S.A.F.E.T.Y. initiative focused on substance abuse prevention education and it was really a brain child for me as I was trying to figure out how best to impact youth where substance abuse was concerned.                                                                                                                          
I believed, the more that young people knew of the dangers and the pitfalls of substance abuse, the better choices that they would be able to make when deciding if they were going to use substances. The SAFE in Harlem coalition was a natural outgrowth of Let's Talk S.A.F.E.T.Y. I was born and raised in Harlem and being a child growing up in that community I was really impacted by the heroin epidemic in the 70s and the crack epidemic in the 80s. There may have been a respite, but as a whole, substance abuse did not go away. Alcoholism and the marijuana culture are still prevalent and now we've come full circle and we see that heroin is on the rise again. With SAFE in Harlem I wanted to hone in on a specific community that was near and dear to my heart. I thought that in order to be effective in Harlem I needed to bring together some of the most respected organizations to help design a very strong safety net for the youth in our community. 

To learn more about Let’s Talk S.A.F.E.T.Y. visit