Health & Wellness

Berkeley Heights Police Shed Light on Statistics and Trends at Drug Awareness Program

Pictured at Monday's Drug Awareness Program presented by the BHPD: Sgt. Jason Massimino, Community Policing; School Resource Officer Ed Gaffney; Det. Trent Fettes; and Police Chief John DiPasquale. Credits: Bobbie Peer
Lethal doses. Most overdoses involve Fentanyl which is 100 times more potent than painkillers. Carfentanil is 100 times more potent than Fentanyl.  Credits: Photo provided by BHPD

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Berkeley Heights Police Department hosted a Drug Awareness program on Monday at the Town Hall as part of an ongoing series to educate the community of the growing opioid and heroin epidemic. 

Drug addiction has no boundaries and overdoses are on the rise in New Jersey. In 2016, drug overdoses topped 2,000 in New Jersey, said Berkeley Heights Police Chief John DiPasquale. "That is more than guns, car accidents and suicides combined."

Heroin is most likely involved in 1,200 of those deaths, 800 were likely the result of Fentanyl [a synthetic more potent version of heroin]. This number is up from 46 deaths reported three years ago, said Chief DiPasquale. Public concern is on teens, however, trends shows that heroin overdose is split evenly among all age groups with the average age of fatal overdose being between the ages of 24 and 48 years old.

Sign Up for E-News

While opioid and heroin addiction may not be at epidemic levels in Berkeley Heights, there is a presence and it is key to educate and share information before addiction starts. "We want to educate folks to intervene early on," said Chief DiPasquale.

Drug addiction is a complex process, said Sgt. Jason Massimino. "To understand drug awareness, you have to understand the addiction part of it. What an addict goes through -- it is hard to describe," he said to the room of parents and educators that attended the recent presentation. "An addict lives for a fix," he said. "Their days revolve around getting it." 

Massimino identified trending drugs found in Berkeley Heights and what signs to look for in addiction. "Marijuana, prescription pills and heroin are the trend in Berkeley Heights," he said. 

Recreation marijuana is still illegal in New Jersey, however, it is easily accessible. Massimino described the different strands, potency and dangers of ingestion of marijuana laced foods and vaping of "honey oil" or "wax."  

"We see it in our kids too," said Detective Trent Fettes of kids ingesting the "honey oil" through vaping pens. "It is out there. That's how they try and get by on us because you can't smell the odor."

Massimino described the obvious issue with opioid prescription pain killers like Percocet, Roxicet, Percodan, OxyContin. "[These drugs] block pain signals to the brain -- gives young people a sense of well being. -- Obviously, the problem is the addiction is strong. It triggers pleasure -- an uncontrollable craving."

"Once someone runs out of money they turn to heroin," said Massimino. Heroin in its purest form is white and is sold in folds. The high lasts for three to four hours, he said. Most overdoses involve the synthetic opioid Fentanyl which is 100 times more potent than painkillers. Carfentanil is 100 times more potent than Fentanyl. (See photo gallery for lethal dosage of Fentanyl and Carfentanil compared to heroin.)

Signs of addiction include: change in behavior, grooming habits, gain or loss of weight, blood shot eyes, always sleeping, unexplained need for money. "At the end of the day, what you see differently -- change in appearance, change in friends -- trust your gut," said Massimino.

It is important to reach out to the available resources for help:

  • New Jersey Addiction Treatment Hotline: 844-276-2777
  • Prevention Links provides Union County Residents with a host of addiction treatment options: or call 732-381-4100.
  • CLEAR Program -- Community Law Enforcement Addiction Recovery
  • Training in administering Narcan: JSAS Healthcare at 732-988-8877 or Prevention Links at 732-381-4100

The prescription painkiller phenomenon within our suburban communities has proven to be a direct trend to the heroin issue. Four out of five start with prescription drugs, said Chief DiPasquale. "So it is key to get any prescription that is not being used out of the house. The closest drop box is in Summit." 

Project Medicine Drop is exercised throughout Union County. It allows consumers to dispose of unused and expired medications anonymously, quickly, and easily. These drop boxes are located within the headquarters of participating police departments. Click here for locations. Berkeley Heights conducts drug take backs twice a year, but "in the meantime, we encourage you to clean out the medicine cabinet and get them over to the closest drop box," said Chief DiPasquale.

In an effort to save more lives, Gov. Chris Christie signed the Overdose Prevention Act into law in 2013 which encourages overdose victims and witnesses to seek medical assistance in the event of an overdose emergency. By guaranteeing limited legal protection from arrest and prosecution, the law eliminates fear as a major barrier to help-seeking. 

In 2014, Union County started the Narcan program, which was deployed by all 21 county agencies. The drug Narcan enables family and friends to act quickly to prevent a potentially lethal overdose from taking the life of a loved one, according to the Union County Public Relations office. In 2017, there have been 98 Narcan deployments in Union County with 42 fatalities reported during that same time frame. Chief DiPasquale said that there has been 14 Narcan deployments in Berkeley Heights since 2014, with three fatal overdoses during that same time period.

"Reality is -- the enforcement is still a big part of the sale of drugs and the fight against this drug problem," said Chief DiPasquale. -- "These drugs do come into our community,"  he said. "We need our guys and gals out there doing enforcement. It helps prevent access to." 

In Berkeley Heights there were 13 drug arrests in 2014, 26 arrests is 2015, and arrests went up to 51 in 2016. "So far through June [2017] there have been 36 arrests involving marijuana, heroin, cocaine, LSD and prescription drugs," said Chief DiPasquale. "We do not attribute it to an increase in use -- it is more likely enforcement -- we have our staffing levels up and we have patrol officers and detectives able to do proactive police work. This is what is responsible for effective drug enforcement." 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

Berkeley Heights’ Women of the Week (WoW) Series features Beth Ferris Sale

March 18, 2018

In honor of the women who are driving change, blazing trails and nurturing society, the Berkeley Heights Diversity Council is pleased to announce an exciting initiative called, Women of the Week (WoW) Series. In the spirit of community, we wanted to honor the women right here in Berkeley Heights who are impacting the world in their own way for the remaining weeks of Women’s History ...

Friends and Family Week at THE MAX Challenge of New Providence

March 22, 2018

We have had people tell us that they haven’t exercised for years before enrolling with us and just a few short weeks into their 10 week challenge they rave about their energy level, their focus, their confidence and so much more!

Exercise is for EVERYONE! Put your faith in a program that is Dynamic, Led by a team of owners, ...

Union County Celebrates Arbor Day 2018 with Free Trees for Schools

In recognition of Arbor Day 2018, the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders is once again partnering with the Union County Shade Tree Advisory Board to sponsor the annual Arbor Day Tree Planting Program, which provides free trees for participating schools.

“The Arbor Day tree planting program is a Union County tradition that provides students with important hands-on lessons about the ...

Rutgers University Percussionist Leads Day of Percussion at New Jersey Youth Symphony April 14

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ—Traveling by car and bus from Albany, Paterson, and New Brunswick, over 70 young percussionist from middle school to undergrad will convene at 570 Central Avenue in New Providence on Saturday, April 14 for a Day of Percussion. Led by Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Art’s Head of Percussion, Joseph Tompkins, students from New Providence and surrounding ...

ELCR to Host Webinar: ‘How to Use and Understand ELCR’s 'Horse-Friendly Zoning Practices in American Communities'

LEXINGTON, KY — Equine Land Conservation Resource (ELCR), in partnership with My Horse University, announced a new webinar “How to Use and Understand ELCR’s “Horse-Friendly Zoning Practices in American Communities” guide. Author and planner Christine Hughes, AICP, will show viewers how to navigate and use the new guide.

The webinar will be held on Tuesday, March ...

New Providence's Allen W. Roberts School Gets Security Walk Through by Police Department after Bomb Threat

March 12, 2018

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - The New Providence Police Department sent a letter to parents and guardians of students at Allen W. Roberts Elementary School after a non-specific bomb threat was reported on Monday afternoon.

It's the second threat  reported at a New Providence school in March. The first threat was reported on March 5th at New Providence High School.

Emergency ...

Driver Escapes Icy Waters After Car Goes Off Road Near Clark and Cranford Borders

March 21, 2018

CLARK, NJ –A car went off the road and into the river on the northbound Garden State Parkway between the Clark and Cranford exits during Wednesday night’s snowstorm.

According to Clark’s Chief of Police, Pedro Matos the car’s driver managed to escape the water.  Divers went in to the river and determined the car to be empty.  The sole occupant was ...

Upcoming Events


Fri, March 23, 9:30 AM

Dunkin Donuts, Berkeley Heights

Let’s Meet Up to Clean Up! BH Walks, a New ...


Fri, March 23, 8:00 PM

Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts, Maplewood

Strollers Present John Patrick Shanley's "Doubt"

Arts & Entertainment

Sat, March 24, 10:00 AM

Burent Middle School , Union

Union County Wide - March for Our Lives

Government Law & Justice

Sat, March 24, 11:00 AM

Home For Good Dog Rescue, Berkeley Heights

Dog Adoption Event


Sat, March 24, 2:00 PM

New Providence United Methodist Church, New Providence

New Providence United Methodist Church Easter Egg ...

Arts & Entertainment Giving Back Religions And Spirituality

Sat, March 24, 2:00 PM

New Providence United Methodist Church, New Providence

New Providence United Methodist Church Easter Egg ...

Arts & Entertainment Giving Back Religions And Spirituality

JCP&L Representative Describes Utility’s Actions During Storm Quinn, Answers Residents' Questions

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – The format of this week’s  Berkeley Heights 'Here and Now' was turned on its head this week. Mayor Bob Woodruff reviewed what happened in the township following Storm Quinn and its predecessor Storm Riley, complete with statistics. He then asked a representative of JCP&L questions about the utility’s response, and how it was ...

Berkeley Heights, Here and Now: Redevelopment Updates

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Mayor's Round Table has been rebranded to "Berkeley Heights, Here and Now." This new format will continue to provide updates from Mayor Bob Woodruff, municipal offices and the Communications Committee want to hear from citizens, businesses and community organizations.

Included in this episode, Mayor Bob Woodruff addresses the status of the ...

Dear Susan: Beauty Tips from a Beauty Expert, Spring Edition

SUSAN BARBAGLIA, owner of Skin Deep Salon and Spa in New Providence, offers a wealth of knowledge and expertise as a leader in the beauty industry. With over thirty years experience in skin care, Susan can answer your most challenging beauty questions. Email your ...

You Want a Check for How Much!

 My first admissions gig was working for a small liberal arts college with a pretty hefty price tag.  Picture me at a college fair: name tag in place, pile of brochures ready to go.  An eager family would walk up and we’d start a conversation.  One of the first questions I’d get from parents was about cost and the moment that $50,000-plus figure left my mouth I ...