HANOVER TOWNSHIP, N.J.- Memorial Junior School hosted the Morris Area Coalition For Education and Positive Choices latest in a series of educational forums focusing on the dangers of vaping. A panel discussion highlighted facts and statistics on this harmful trend.
Superintendent, Mike Wasco, opened the evening introducing Thomas "Ace" Gallgher founder of the coalition. Gallagher opened the evening by thanking Wasco and the Hanover Township Schools for hosting this event and everyone for coming. He then explained the mission of the coalition,
“This group was put together, not only to address a serious, dangerous need, but it was put together for us, to stand together to fight back a crisis that is destroying too many beautiful, innocent people, and destroying too many families. Statistics now show that just about everyone of us has been, or is now being affected by addiction, whether it’s some of the drugs being discussed here tonight, other drugs, and there are many, or alcoholism,” Gallagher said.
He added, “There are very good, qualified people working very hard on these issues and have been for years, but , a very smart person in our group said to me “If anyone truly had a grip on this crisis, it wouldn’t be getting worse and worse every single day. As Hanover Township Police Department Chief Mark Roddy and I have said many times, we all have to get together and re invent the wheel, because apparently what we are doing isn’t enough or effective as it should be, again because again the problem is getting worse."
Gallagher shared his passion driving the coalition formation, “Almost 10 years ago, I began to think about running for the Hanover Township Board of Education. I was concerned about the students with regards to drugs and alcohol and was thinking about new ways to get through to these youngsters but yet had little knowledge of what was actually being taught. Once I was elected to office, I got a chance to see what the kids were actually learning, in the area of character education, drugs, drug abuse and alcohol."
"I was pleasantly surprised, and relieved to find out how much education our children were receiving. At that point I changed my tune and began to brag about what a great job our schools were doing. After a few calls to the high schools I realized that they were just as aggressive in all of these same areas, even going a little further," he continued, “Shortly after that, I discovered what I called ‘The Big Breakdown.’ “All of these great lessons all of this hard work and great information was never making it home to the parents, never making it to the kitchen table. This important information, at least the specifics on serious curriculum are not making it to the biggest players in that child’s life, the parents.”
“In my family, Gallagher shared, I have law enforcement officers and school teachers, these two groups of professionals are educated on drug trends and certain behaviors associated with a child or resident using or beginning to experiment with drugs. Law Enforcement Officers obviously much more so, because not only are they on the front line dealing with this everyday, as an illegal dangerous problem and disease, they are also dealing with and have to understand these behaviors with men and women that are sometimes committing criminal acts. Point being, How can we as parents stand together and fight something that we know very little about?”
“This Coalition spends quite a bit of time on sharing relevant information with our families. We also re-enforce what these guys are learning in school through social media and other various information vehicles. We are here tonight to share some tough information that will hopefully give us all a better understanding about what we are up against,” He added, and then introduced Hanover Township Chief of Police, Mark Roddy.
Roddy discussed how the marketing of vapes is directed at children with colorful flavors. He shared that from 2011-2014 the percent of kids vaping jumped from 1.5% to 13.5%. In 2018 that number is over 16% and climbing. "It is illegal to sell vapes to minors, as well as minors to posses them," Roddy shared. He continued to describe what vapes are and how they work.
The conversation then focused on the opoid/heroin epedemic, with Morris County Prosecutor Fred Knapp citing 79 fatal overdoses in Morris County in 2017. National statistics show 80% of people addicted to heroin started with prescription opioids. Law enforcement has taken action. 25 police departments have drop boxes for unused prescriptions and twice a year, host Operation Take Back, Residents are urged not to throw out or flush pills, rather dispose of them through these controlled methods.
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Brad Seabury addressed the increase in deaths caused by Fentanyl, an opioid pain medication, stronger than heroin, often prescribed with others to expedite pain relief. On the state level an increase of 205% of opioid deaths have been reported in recent years.
Morris County Sheriff James Gannon, then addressed the ways in which the county is responding to the opioid crisis. Hope1, created by The Morris County Sheriff’s office in partnership with the Mental Health Association of Morris County, Morris County Prevention is Key and their Center for Addiction Recovery, Education and Success (CARES) addresses treatment, behavior health issues, recovery, and resources for support. Going right into the community, shelters and soup kitchens, Hope1 brings these resources to the at-risk communities. Gannon shared , "over 50% of inmates deal with addiction and through such resources programs are now offered to them, including AA and NA programs, anger management and coping skills." The department is now working with 50 employers in the county willing to offer jobs to those who go through and complete these programs, giving new opportunities and direction to those who need it.
Gallagher again thanked everyone made this event happen and those who came out to support it. He closed the night with powerful words; “I believe knowledge is power and I know the more prepared you are for a fight the better you will do. This isn’t just a fight, this is a war, and, a war that we are not winning. All of us here tonight stand together as a front line between all our families and the dangers associated with drugs and alcohol and we need every parent to join us on this front line.”
For more information on the Morris Area Coalition For Education and Positive Choices click here .