LONG BRANCH, NJ — Experts in health care and law enforcement from Monmouth County will address the health crisis resulting from New Jersey’s growing heroin epidemic during a panel discussion to be held on Wednesday, April 26 at Monmouth University.

“Responding to the Heroin Epidemic in Monmouth County” is the title of the free forum, co-sponsored by Monmouth Medical Center, a RWJBarnabas Health facility, and WEforum, an organization led by women whose mission is to strengthen the health and wellness of communities within New Jersey.

Featured panelists include Victor Almeida, D.O., FACEP,  chairman of emergency medicine at Monmouth Medical Center and past chairman of the New Jersey Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians; Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni; and certified alcohol and drug counselor Dennis Makarowski, LCSW, co-occurring disorder specialist behavioral health at Monmouth Medical Center. The program will be emceed by former New York Giants defensive lineman Christian Peter, board member of the Tigger House Foundation.

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During the discussion, they will focus on combating New Jersey’s pervasive heroin epidemic, which cuts through every socio-economic level, effecting urban and suburban communities across the state. There were 1,587 drug overdose deaths in 2015 in New Jersey, up a staggering 21 percent from the year before, according to the state’s Medical Examiner’s Office. Even more alarming, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in July 2015 that the New Jersey heroin overdose death rate is triple the soaring U.S. rate. It’s a health crisis that cannot be ignored.

The program will be held from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Monmouth University Pollack Theater, located at 400 Cedar Avenue in West Long Branch.

WEforum hosts empowerment and educational events with the mission: “When you educate a woman, she empowers her family, and together WE can evolve a community.” The event is also supported by Monmouth Medical Center Foundation; Tigger House Foundation, a Red Bank-based nonprofit organization dedicated to achieving a positive impact by reducing the death rate of heroin and opiate addiction; and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.

Event registration is required by Friday, April 21. To RSVP, visit www.barnabashealth.org/2017conversation or contact Felicia Hernandez at 732-923-6886 or Felicia.hernandez@rwjbh.org.