Health & Wellness

Opioid crisis hits children, seniors across Middlesex County

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Slide showing statistics about the Opioid crisis and cost in human life across the country. Credits: Tom Haydon
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Sayreville Police Chief John Zebrowski speaking at a forum on the Opioid crisis that was held at St. Peter's University Hospital in New Brunswick Credits: Tom Haydon
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NEW BRUNSWICK – Sayreville Police Chief John Zebrowski, sees the reports his officers file. Several times each week his officers respond to calls of an opioid drug overdose and find a person near death.

Officers must apply Narcan, a power antidote dispensed through the nose, that quick counteracts the overdose and saves the person for that episode. Too often, Zebrowsky says, the scene repeats itself over and over again.

“On a weekend particularly, we could have four or five calls. On a Saturday there could be two or three calls for the same person,” Zebrowski said.

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Linda Carroll, chief nursing officer at St. Peter’s Healthcare Systems in New Brunswick, tells of other stories, of hospital staff going to schools to explain the dangers of opioids to students.

Educators at one middle school in Middlesex County reported of 11 students had overdosed, Carroll says.

“Children as young as nine are starting to experiment with drugs,” she said.

Statistically, three out of 4 heroin addicts started using prescription drugs. When those drugs ran out, people switched to heroin because that cost $4 a bag, and one tablet of the drug Percocet costs $30, Carroll said.

A year ago, Zebrowski saw police had to do more than respond to overdose victims who were near death. He reached out to St. Peter’s which formed an Opioid task force to provide services for overdose victims, reach out to school students and the community at large and explain the crisis.

Zebrowski pointed to numbers showing that more 170 people die each day from drug overdoses across the country.

Now, when Sayreville police respond to an overdose and get the person to a hospital, the task force sends a peer counsellor, who is himself a recovering addict, to talk to talk to the person.

Often when an officer gives a victim Narcan and the person quickly recovers, that victim does  want to be further involved with police and does not want a trip to a hospital. In those cases, the police chief said, a Sayreville officer will call the person the next day to check their condition and offer help.

“We want to stop that flow of overdoses,” he said.

His comments came at public forum earlier this month and St. Peter’s. A second forum is scheduled April 24.

The task force involves health care, recovery, and family support agencies from across Middlesex County, and as well law enforcement agencies.

“New Jersey is confronting a staggering public health crisis brought about by prescription opioid abuse,” Carroll said. “This is an epidemic that knows no economic, racial or geographic limits, and it’s one we must fight with education and resources,” she said.

Information and registration for the April 24 meeting is available by calling St. Peter’s University Hospital or contacting Marcia Linico at mlinico@saintpetersuh.com.

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