EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - The East Brunswick Police Department wants to stop drug use in our community, but first they need township residents to check their own medicine cabinets. Patrolman Craig Hoover of the Community Policing Division of the EBPD says that the United States is the #1 consumer of opiates (narcotic painkillers) in the world and that Americans consume 99% of these highly-addictive prescription medications. He’s referring to drugs like oxycodone, oxycontin, and hydrocodone.
At a recent Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) pharmacy seminar, Hoover learned about the connection between adult prescriptions and teen drug abuse. The DEA asserts that very often doctors issue too much pain medication, even to young patients who are especially vulnerable to abuse. “The pain killers are highly addictive, and heroin is the next step when the prescription runs out, “ says Hoover.
“In the past, doctors would give patients prescription-strength Motrin or Tylenol, which have some side-effects but are less addictive.” The East Brunswick Municipal Drug Alliance urges the reduction and responsible use of opiate pain killers and is trying help people to understand the relationship between addiction and prescriptions. “Drug abusers sometimes raid their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine cabinets looking for drugs that they can use or sell, “ says Hoover.
The “mission focus” of the PAARI program in East Brunswick is the abuse of prescription drugs among teens in town. The Police-Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative (PAARI) is a proactive intervention program that began in Gloucester and Arlington, Massachusetts in communities beset by drugs and the social and criminal problems that surround abuse. Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello, who was among the trainers for the EBPD, is being honored by President Obama as a national “Champion of Change” for his contribution to the fight against prescription drug and heroin abuse. The Gloucester program provided amnesty to drug abusers, resulting in an influx of users travelling to that seaside city to get the treatment they needed. The police and their resources were overwhelmed by the success of their own program.
The EBPD adopted the more manageable Arlington program, introduced by Chief Fred Ryan who also provided training here. Says Hoover, “ PAARI in East Brunswick involves calls and outreach to township residents who have had arrests or who have driven concern in the past. Treatment is offered in partnership with the existing, recognized College Recovery Program at Rutgers University. At College Recovery, clients are screened and brought into a program, paid for by their insurance. Since PAARI kicked off in January, 2 East Brunswick residents have gone through the program.”
“PAARI helps them move along, “continues Hoover, “Some people are just waiting to be offered treatment.” Hoover acknowledges that the long-time good work done by College Recovery is one of the reasons he has faith in the program. “College Recovery has more pull with the treatment centers.”
In addition to treatment after events, the Police Department wants residents and local students to know what the “Good Samaritan Law” means with regard to calling in reports of drug abuse or overdose. Says Hoover, “Some teens are afraid to call 911 because they don’t want to get arrested.” He reminds everyone that if a person calls to report a drug-related emergency, “He or she will not be arrested or charged with an offense. It’s like hitting a reset button. Doing the right thing should not make a problem for you.”
Hoover continued to outline some steps all East Brunswick residents could take with regard to creating drug safety at home:
- Be careful and curious about medicines you are prescribed. Say no to doctors if you don’t want to take an opiate.
- Parents need to monitor the medication prescribed for their teen-aged children and young adults into their early 30’s. Request alternatives for pain relief.
- Grandparents need to recognize that the temptation of grabbing easily-reached medications may be too great for some of their grandchildren and other guests to their home.
- Recognize that addiction is a family problem, as it affects everyone in a home. “Sadly,” says Hoover, “we keep going to the same houses again and again.”
- Participate in tomorrow’s DEA National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day Saturday April 30, 2016. Turn in unwanted meds at East Brunswick PD. Clean out your medicine cabinets and dispose of old medication properly and safely. Get rid of opiates. Don’t send drugs into the water supply.
- Know that Narcan – the immediate-relief overdose drug – is a “band-aid” on a serious problem. Narcan saves a person from overdose, but there is often little or no follow-up or treatment afterwards. “Narcan addresses an emergency situation, but it does not cure addiction, “says Hoover. The East Brunswick Public Library will host a Narcan training program on Thursday May 19th at 7:00 pm at the EBPL. Training is open to anyone who is at risk of an opioid overdose or their family and friends. All eligible participants will receive a FREE Narcan® (naloxone) kit. In addition, education will be provided on how to administer Narcan® (naloxone) to reverse a heroin/opioid overdose.
The PAARI program supports the direction of community policing with regard to drug abuse by residents of East Brunswick. Rather than punishing users, it drives people to treatment that is very much needed and provided by compassionate professionals. Patrolman Craig Hoover has recently been recognized as the “Citizen of the Year” by the East Brunswick Elks Lodge No. 2370. He understands what community policing means to the people of East Brunswick.