BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Essex County experts provided residents a comprehensive look into the opioid epidemic ravaging the county and the state at a Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series hosted Tuesday night by the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey and the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey.
The opioid crisis has impacted Essex County as much as any of New Jersey’s 21 counties. Of the 1,138 overdose deaths thus far in 2018, 145 have occurred in Essex County, according to the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General.
“It’s a community effort. We all have to be involved in every aspect of what we do in all walks of life to try to get a handle on the opioid epidemic,” said Dr. Lewis S. Nelson, professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.
The town hall was held in collaboration with the Bloomfield Health Department, Bloomfield Municipal Alliance Committee, the Drug Enforcement Administration – New Jersey Division, Rutgers Health and Essex County.
The series, which has been hosted for 20 counties throughout the state, focuses on the link between prescription opioid dependency and heroin use and examines the causes and possible solutions of the opioid crisis from several perspectives, including law enforcement, government, the medical community, prevention, treatment and recovery.
“It is necessary for all of us — parents, community leaders, students and residents — to work together as a community to try to come up with ways to eradicate this epidemic,” said Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey Executive Director Angelo Valente.
Other panelists included Janet Phillips, program manager at Rutgers Health – University Behavioral Healthcare; Mariel Hufnagel, executive director of the Ammon Foundation; Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Michele Miller; Barbara Kauffman, director of prevention services at Morris County Prevention Is Key; and Nicholas Beam, Patient Navigator with RWJBarnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery.
Ronnell Wilson and Erica Liu of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Jersey also delivered remarks at the event.
“We can’t just work hard, we have to work smart,” said Wilson, the Unite Chief of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. “We have to get out and get the message to the folks in the community.”
The final Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall will be held in Mercer County tonight at 6:30 at The College of New Jersey.