MONMOUTH COUNTY, NJ: Substance abuse and drug addiction is a national epidemic. Every time you read the news, there is likely another obituary about a beautiful young person dead from an overdose, a family forever devastated. In the last 5 years, NJ has lost over 10,000 people to drug overdoses. In Monmouth County alone, the overdose death count has nearly tripled during that time. 

Locally our youth are dying at staggering numbers... The opioid epidemic does not discriminate. Take for example Raritan High School, right here in Hazlet, NJ: Over 50 of their former students have died as a result of substance abuse--yes, that's a fact, right here in our community.  

It may seem so out of control that one may think they can't make a difference, but you can. You can support local organizations that are in the trenches, dedicated to providing hope for those who feel hopeless. You can support the all volunteer Hazlet's Hope Network, by making a tax-deductable donation to benefit their intervention programs. HHN steps in, by bridging the way from addiction to recovery. It is a 501(c)(3), non-profit dedicated to uniting the skills and experience of recovery teams with Bayshore area patients, seeking lifesaving changes from substance abuse through long term treatment.

At the HHN  Annual Honors Dinner, over 200 guests turned out to support HHN. The crowd included most of the local police chiefs, behavioral health professionals, members of the community, local business and corporate sponsors, recovered drug and alcohol addicts, many treatment centers such as Seacrest Recovery Center, Brookdale Recovery Center, Recover Centers of America, Agape, North Jersey Recovery Center, Footprints to Recovery, Discovery Institute, and Sunrise Detox.  The event was held on October 23, 2019, at the Addison in Aberdeen. The honorees were BCB Bank, Forever Hope, Mike's Subs, Pastor Barry Mulligan and Captain Shannon Torres. Eileen Corcoron was honored in memoriam. Nearly $250,000 was raised in treatment programs (over $15,000 of that was monetary donations). HHN supporter Carol Stillwell successfully motivated the guests to contribute donations and pledge treatment programs, as she emceed that part of the event.  

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The energized and often raw emotions in the room, represented so many heartaches, so many journeys, and so much hope.   HHN supporter at the event, Josephine G. speaks about her imprisoned son who is an addict. "As a parent to watch your child suffer, that beautiful person you gave birth to now in agony because of that wretched drug is unbearable...."  VIDEO: Listen to Josephine's emotional testimony about her son, her plea for help and her praise for Hazlet Hope Network:

Evidence now shows that there is a high rate of overdose deaths soon following the release of those imprisoned for substance abuse, (both short and long term imprisonment).

At the previous year's Hazlet's Hope Annual Dinner, Event Honoree Sheriff Shaun Golden complimented the great work of Hazlet's Hope Network, mentioning, "It takes the 'proverbial village' to make a difference with the staggering statistics... 25% of the population in Monmouth County will somehow be touched with this disease (addiction)...the mission is to help those that are addicted..."  Fast forward in time about one year after his statement, and in October of 2019, Congressman Chris Smith in a press release praised Sheriff Shaun Golden and Freeholder Director Tom Arnone, for their proposal which secured a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to boost Monmouth County programs that provide treatment, recovery support systems and relapse prevention for opioid addicts already in the corrections' system.

Rep. Chris Smith commented in the October 2019 release, "“The opioid crisis needs to be fought at many levels: in Washington, in every state and at the local level,” said Rep. Smith (NJ-04). “This grant will bring federal dollars to the fight at the county level. Monmouth County Freeholder Director Arnone and the Board of Freeholders gave the go-ahead for this initiative, and Sheriff Golden has run with it. Sheriff Golden and his workers at the county jail are on the front lines in the opioid crisis. Inmates and especially those who are entering the system are vulnerable to relapse, overdosing and death when they are released or make bail. Opioids have ruined many lives and families, but this measure is an attempt to avoid tragedy and reduce deaths.”

Fast forward another three months: Governor Murphy announced yesterday in a January 9th, 2020 press release, that nearly $8 million in funding will go to county correctional facilities, to provide medication-assisted opioid treatment to individuals with opioid addiction in county jails.

TAPinto spoke with Phil O'Hara, recovered heroin addict, now clean for three and a half years. Phil is a treatment liaison for Hazlet Hope Network. O'Hara's thoughts on Governor Murphy's announcement yesterday, "I think it's a great initiative, and there are many people at risk leaving jail that will benefit from a referral to a medicated assisted treatment modality. However, there is no one size fits all answer or solution to the problem."

O'Hara's  mother Laura O'Hara, is on the Founding Board of Trustees for Hazlet's Hope Foundation. Her son Phil hit rock bottom with his drug addiction, and survived with intervention and treatment. Mother and son are on a mission to help others have the chance of recovery that their family has had. Laura O'Hara along with Jim DiNardo, Angelo DeRosa, Thomas Furlong, Ellen Edward, Robert Nucci, Vincent Solomeno and Scott Whalen, are on the founding board of Hazlet's Hope Network.

Watch this powerful video testimony here of how local law enforcement is working with Hazlet's Hope Foundation to help guide those suffering with the disease of drug addiction to a path of recovery:

Hazlet's Hope Network operates a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week crisis line for those that are addicted and their families who are in need of assistance. That number is 732.739.7717.  Hazlet's Hope Network's volunteer certified recovery coaches use peer to peer based intervention to treat and overcome addiction. The organization's objective is to support the person seeking change and those that love them. They provide assistance and guidance towards healthy change to get them on the path to long term recovery.   Visit them online-click here.