Health & Wellness

Berkeley Heights Police Shed Light on Statistics and Trends at Drug Awareness Program

Pictured at Monday's Drug Awareness Program presented by the BHPD: Sgt. Jason Massimino, Community Policing; School Resource Officer Ed Gaffney; Det. Trent Fettes; and Police Chief John DiPasquale. Credits: Bobbie Peer
Lethal doses. Most overdoses involve Fentanyl which is 100 times more potent than painkillers. Carfentanil is 100 times more potent than Fentanyl.  Credits: Photo provided by BHPD

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Berkeley Heights Police Department hosted a Drug Awareness program on Monday at the Town Hall as part of an ongoing series to educate the community of the growing opioid and heroin epidemic. 

Drug addiction has no boundaries and overdoses are on the rise in New Jersey. In 2016, drug overdoses topped 2,000 in New Jersey, said Berkeley Heights Police Chief John DiPasquale. "That is more than guns, car accidents and suicides combined."

Heroin is most likely involved in 1,200 of those deaths, 800 were likely the result of Fentanyl [a synthetic more potent version of heroin]. This number is up from 46 deaths reported three years ago, said Chief DiPasquale. Public concern is on teens, however, trends shows that heroin overdose is split evenly among all age groups with the average age of fatal overdose being between the ages of 24 and 48 years old.

Sign Up for E-News

While opioid and heroin addiction may not be at epidemic levels in Berkeley Heights, there is a presence and it is key to educate and share information before addiction starts. "We want to educate folks to intervene early on," said Chief DiPasquale.

Drug addiction is a complex process, said Sgt. Jason Massimino. "To understand drug awareness, you have to understand the addiction part of it. What an addict goes through -- it is hard to describe," he said to the room of parents and educators that attended the recent presentation.

"An addict lives for a fix," he said. "Their days revolve around getting it." Massimino added.

Massimino identified trending drugs found in Berkeley Heights and what signs to look for in addiction. "Marijuana, prescription pills and heroin are the trend in Berkeley Heights," he said. The police officers showed samples of these drugs from their drug kit donated to the BHPD by Primrose School of Berkeley Heights.

Recreation marijuana is still illegal in New Jersey, however, it is easily accessible. Massimino described the different strands and potency and dangers of ingestion of marijuana laced foods and vaping of "honey oil" or "wax."  

"We see it in our kids too," said Detective Trent Fettes of kids ingesting the "honey oil" through vaping pens. "It is out there. That's how they try and get by on us because you can't smell the odor."

Massimino described the obvious issue with opioid prescription pain killers like Percocet, Roxicet, Percodan, OxyContin. "[These drugs] block pain signals to the brain -- gives young people a sense of well being. -- Obviously, the problem is the addiction is strong. It triggers pleasure -- an uncontrollable craving."

"Once someone runs out of money they turn to heroin," said Massimino. Heroin in its purest form is white and is sold in folds. The high lasts for three to four hours, he said. Most overdoses involve the synthetic opioid Fentanyl which is 100 times more potent than painkillers. Carfentanil is 100 times more potent than Fentanyl. 

Signs of addiction include: change in behavior, grooming habits, gain or loss of weight, blood shot eyes, always sleeping, unexplained need for money. "At the end of the day, what you see differently -- change in appearance, change in friends -- trust your gut," said Massimino.

It is important to reach out to the available resources for help:

  • New Jersey Addiction Treatment Hotline: 844-276-2777
  • Prevention Links provides Union County Residents with a host of addiction treatment options: or call 732-381-4100.
  • CLEAR Program -- Community Law Enforcement Addiction Recovery
  • Training in administering Narcan: JSAS Healthcare at 732-988-8877 or Prevention Links at 732-381-4100

The prescription painkiller phenomenon within our suburban communities has proven to be a direct trend to the heroin issue. Four out of five start with prescription drugs, said Chief DiPasquale. "So it is key to get any prescription that is not being used out of the house. The closest drop box is in Summit." 

Project Medicine Drop is exercised throughout Union County. It allows consumers to dispose of unused and expired medications anonymously, quickly, and easily. These drop boxes are located within the headquarters of participating police departments. Click here for locations. Berkeley Heights conducts drug take backs twice a year, but "in the meantime, we encourage you to clean out the medicine cabinet and get them over to the closest drop box," said Chief DiPasquale.

In an effort to save more lives, Gov. Chris Christie signed the Overdose Prevention Act into law in 2013 which encourages overdose victims and witnesses to seek medical assistance in the event of an overdose emergency. By guaranteeing limited legal protection from arrest and prosecution, the law eliminates fear as a major barrier to help-seeking. 

In 2014, Union County started the Narcan program, which was deployed by all 21 county agencies. The drug Narcan enables family and friends to act quickly to prevent a potentially lethal overdose from taking the life of a loved one, according to the Union County Public Relations office. In 2017, there have been 98 Narcan deployments in Union County with 42 fatalities reported during that same time frame. Chief DiPasquale said that there has been 14 Narcan deployments in Berkeley Heights since 2014, with three fatal overdoses during that same time period.

"Reality is the enforcement is still a big part of the sale of drugs and the fight against this drug problem," said DiPasquale. -- "These drugs do come into our community," said Chief DiPasquale. "We need our guys and gals out there doing enforcement. It helps prevent access to." 

In Berkeley Heights there were 13 drug arrests in 2014, 26 arrests is 2015 and arrests went up to 51 in 2016. "So far through June there have been 36 arrests involving marijuana, heroin, cocaine, LSD and prescription drugs," said Chief DiPasquale. "We do not attribute it to an increase in use -- it is more likely enforcement -- we have our staffing levels up and we have patrol officers and detectives able to do proactive police work. This is what is responsible for effective drug enforcement." 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Upcoming Events


Sat, March 17, 12:00 PM

K Primary Care & Medical Nutrition Center, New Providence

Cooking Class Teaches Portion, Calories and Food ...

Sat, March 17, 5:00 PM

Mountainside Elks Lodge No. 1585, Mountainside

Mountainside Elks Annual St. Patrick's Day Dinner

Food & Drink

Sat, March 17, 7:00 PM

Union County Performing Arts Center, Rahway

Footloose, The Musical @ UCPAC March 15-17, 2018

Arts & Entertainment

Sun, March 18, 1:00 PM

South Avenue Arts, Garwood

Westfield Art Association Hosts Artist Talk & ...

Arts & Entertainment

Sun, March 18, 2:00 PM

Miller-Cory House Museum, Westfield

Maple Sugar Sunday


Sun, March 18, 2:00 PM

Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts, Maplewood

Maplewood Strollers Present John Patrick ...

Arts & Entertainment

"You're the Star Tonight" Special Needs Prom at St. Bart's on May 5

March 17, 2018

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- "You're the Star Tonight" Prom will be sponsored by the St. Bartholomew the Apostle Church (2032 Westfield Ave.) and the YMCA and held on Saturday, May 5, 2018, from 7:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. This night is for "Special Needs Young Adults" from the ages of 14-21. The night will be a full blown prom with red carpet walk up, music, dancing, ...

A New Day for 529 Plans: Federal Tax Reforms Lead to New Possibilities for These Education Savings Accounts

March 8, 2018

Do you have a 529 college savings plan? Have you thought about opening a 529 plan account? If the answer to either question is “yes,” you should know about two major changes that broaden the possibilities for 529 plans. They may give your family some new options. You may be able to pay K-12 tuition with 529 plan funds.

The legislation ...

Proud to support Tom Malinowski for Congress

March 8, 2018

Every single day, whether I want to be or not, I am reminded how important it is that Democrats gain control of the House of Representatives in November and check Donald Trump. Fortunately, there is a terrific candidate in New Jersey's 7th Congressional District who can beat incumbent Leonard Lance. That candidate is Tom Malinowski.

I'm a lifelong New Jersey resident -- including ...