Dear Editor-

I write today because over the past year I have attended several Opioid Awareness Forums in Morris County due to my job as Municipal Alliance Committee of the Chathams Coordinator. I’m confident that everyone is aware that the United States is in the throws of an Opioid Epidemic. New Jersey is one of the hardest hit states.

I think most Chatham residents imagine this problem to be in other areas of New Jersey and not in our neighborhood. Wednesday night I attended the Opioid Awareness evening with Morris County Prosecutor Fredrick Knapp and Morris County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Brad Seabury that Mayor Curt Ritter and the Township Committee brought to Chatham last night. I am still emotional. The information is staggering and I must make a Chatham call to action.

Sign Up for E-News

New Jersey is experiencing one of the most dramatic changes in substance misuse. Substance abuse is not a new topic. However, environmental, medical, and chemical changes have converged to lead us to the most rapidly changing cause of death. This crisis is hitting our youth and young adults very hard. There in NO Morris County town that has gone untouched by a fatal opioid overdose. Not one! I’m reaching out to you now to help you understand these changes and encourage you to get educated.

Why, Chatham, should you care?

  • In the past 5 years, the average age admitted to recovery treatment centers has dropped from 35 to 25 years of age.
  • The path from prescription drug misuse to heroin use is increasing each year in 18-30 year olds.
  • 75 percent of heroin users now begin with prescription opioids (Oxycodone, OxyContin, Codeine, Vicodin, Percocet, etc.)
  • There was a 205 percent increase in prescription opioid submissions/seizures by the Morris County Special Enforcement Unit from 2014 to 2015
  • The U.S. makes up 4.6% of the world population, yet the U.S. consumes 80% of opioids
  • Pharmaceuticals are the No. 1 abused drug after alcohol

Why should you care? Morris County facts:

  • The average age of overdose is 32 years old
  • Largest number of overdoses have been under 30 years old
  • 2014 - 36 fatal overdoses
  • 2015 - 43 fatal overdoses
  • 2016 - 64 fatal overdoses (0 Murders, 21 Car accidents)
  • 2017 - 40 fatal overdoses by May 21 - projection of 100 fatal overdoses
  • 2016 - Fatal overdoses are now the #1 cause of death in Morris County
  • Age of Morris County 2016 Fatal Overdoses ranged from 15-69 years of age

Why should you care?

  • New Jersey has the purist heroin in the county
  • We are a gateway state due to our port location
  • Fentanyl began being added to Heroin in 2013/14
  • Fentanyl, cheaper and 50x stronger than Heroin, allows for a stronger product in much less material
  • Opioid prescription pills cost approximately $30/pill to buy from a dealer
  • Heroin can cost as low as $3, typically $6-10
  • 1 exposure to heroin with Fentanyl can be fatal
  • Heroin is now commonly crushed and packed into a pill labeled Oxy 30 making it look like a prescription opioid

Why should you care? Parenting and family facts:

  • Prescribed opioid use before high school graduation age 18 increases the risk of future opioid misuse after high school
  • Youth are often prescribed opioid-based pain relievers for athletic injuries, dental work, wisdom teeth removal or broken bones.
  • Teen users of nicotine, alcohol or other drugs are at significantly higher risk of developing an addictive disorder compared to adults; and the earlier they began using, the higher their risk.
  • Nine out of 10 people, with substance use disorders began smoking, drinking or using other drugs before they turned 18.

Why, Chatham, should you care?

  • Addiction does not discriminate between socio-economic, educational, ethnic, or cultural differences.
  • Chatham families ARE experiencing loss due to opioid overdoses

What you can do now:

  • Clean out your cabinets of unused prescriptions and bring them to Chatham Safe Medication Drop Boxes located at Chatham Borough Hall and Chatham Township Municipal Building
  • Understand the possibilities
  • Learn the sign and symptoms of opioid misuse
  • Reverse addiction stigmas to alleviate this barrier to help and treatment
  • Join or become a friend to the Municipal Alliance Committee of the Chathams and Madison Chatham Coalition
  • Teach good decision making skills to young children

I personally encourage all residents to come to Chatham High School at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 30 for the next local Opioid program: Opioid Crisis to Opportunity. Come hear Pat Aussem, am licensed professional counselor and parenting expert, Melissa Crouse of Origins Behavioral Healthcare, a local young adult in recovery and a mother who lost her son to an opioid overdose.

The lifesaving first aid drug Naloxone/Narcan will also be discussed and local training opportunities offered.  Many sectors of our community –doctors, hospitals, law enforcement, schools, municipalities- are working to combat the Opioid problem. Addiction is a family problem. We need parents, grandparents, and friend to now join the cause to reverse this epidemic. Chatham needs to know.


Kelly Loofbourrow

Municipal Alliance Committee of the Chathams Coordinator

Chatham parent who cares


  • Morris County Prevention is Key -
  • CaresNJ
  • ReachNJ - 844-REACH- NJ
  • Partnership for Drugfree Kids
  • Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse