MIDDLETOWN, NJ:  With opioid addiction taking the lives of over 3000 NJ, residents last year, Middletown Township and the Middletown School District realize that educating our youth is urgently necessary and that it needs to start as early as in the elementary schools.

Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden commented at an event, "The opioid epidemic is a suburban crisis. Parents, engage your children in the discussion. We used to go regularly to the high schools and speak to them about the opioid crisis. We now start our campaigns in the 5th, 6th and 7th grades. Households must clear out their unused prescriptions, they are 70% of the feeder path into heroin." 

At neighboring Raritan High School, over 50 former students have passed from drug and alcohol related deaths.  Bullying is also too common and suicide related deaths are an epidemic with our youth in Monmouth County.

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To battle these threats to our youth, on Friday, September 20th the Middletown Municipal Alliance presented its Reaching Out program to 5th graders at Harmony, Leonardo, Navesink, New Monmouth, Nut Swamp and Ocean Avenue elementary schools. The seminar, which was held at Middletown High School South, touched on hard-hitting topics such as drug and alcohol addiction and Internet safety.

Cyberbullying and prevention specialist Nicki Francis discussed the dangers of social media with the students, and recovering addict and Middletown resident Andrew Suarez shared his story with the children in an effort to help guide them to make better life choices.

Students also had the opportunity to interact with the panel of experts and community leaders and ask questions about how to deal with real-life situations that involve drugs and alcohol. The question and answer engagement between the students and adults was a success. Panelists included in addition to Andrew Suarez and Nicki Francis, Committeewoman Pat Snell, Freeholder and Municipal Alliance member Gerry Scharfenberger and Student Assistance Counselors Tom Letson (HS South), Jacqueline Duca (HS North) and Christine Black (Bayshore MS).

Educational programs like these are necessary to battle the constant threats against our youth.