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Heroin- Suburbia’s Deadly Secret

Heroin- Suburbia’s Deadly Secret

Drug addiction is growing in the Garden State…

“Twice as many New Jersey residents are killed by drug overdoses than car crashes every year,” Ezra Helfand, executive director of the Wellspring Center for Prevention in Middlesex County.

According to Mr. Helfand and other leading sources, New Jersey had 5,200 heroin-deaths in the last 12 years.

Heroin Deaths NJ

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that 52 million people in the country older than 12 years old use prescription drugs non-medically. In 2015, more than 28,000 have sought treatment in just New Jersey for heroin or opioid abuse — since 2010, more than 184,000 were admitted to treatment facilities for heroin or opioid abuse.

With the heroin death rate in New Jersey reaching 3 ½ times the national average, the state is moving to propose a massive initiative in the prevention, education, treatment and recovery efforts of those affected by opiate abuse in New Jersey.

Why we care so much about this issue…

Drug addiction is no longer an epidemic hiding in the shadows of confined spaces like crack houses in urban city areas. Drug addiction of this kind isn’t specific to any one group of people, it does not discriminate and it is devastating families up, down and across our state.

According to Angelo Valente, executive director of Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, addiction is not haunting only the inner cities and back alleys, but suburban neighborhoods and shore communities as well.

Addiction Does Not Discriminate

“If you look at the statistics and you also speak to individuals who are addicted to heroin, you’ll see that in many cases – I would say in most cases – addiction started with prescription drug usage,” Valente said.

Read More: NJ’s heroin, opioid problem targeted with HOPE Initiative 

Drug abuse and addiction don’t only destroy the lives of the addict, but also the family members who watch it take hold and rip to ruins, the lives of their loved ones.  There are countless numbers of teens that turn to drugs as an escape from life, or when dealing with being bullied, rejection, divorce etc. New Jersey families need to become aware so they can be equipped to handle something like this if it shows up at their dinner table.

Ezra Hefland, quoted above, said the best advice to parents is “to have conversations with kids because that has proved to be effective.”

“Kids who have conversations with their parents are less likely to turn to drugs,” he said.

We aren’t the only ones who care…
“The Legislature finds and declares that there is an epidemic in this State stemming from the use of heroin and the abuse of opioid medications… In order for the State to combat this epidemic, citizens in all walks of life must be alerted to the problem, and must be armed with information that will allow them to recognize, and undertake appropriate actions, when they or their loved ones are at risk of, or are succumbing to, a heroin or opioid addiction.” – Excerpt from NJ State Assembly Bill A1875.

NJ lawmakers are calling assembly bill A1875, HOPE
The “HOPE Initiative Act;” an acronym for Heroin and Opioid Drug Public Education, requires establishment of a public awareness campaign to educate citizens about dangers and causes of, and appropriate responses to, heroin and opioid addiction. The HOPE Initiative Act was introduced on January 27, 2016 and referred to the Assembly Human Services Committee. On March 7, 2016 the committee voted favorably on the bill and it was referred to an Assembly Appropriations Committee.

The HOPE Initiative Act would require the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services in the Department of Human Services to establish and oversee a public awareness campaign that would be known as the “Heroin and Opioid Drug Public Education (HOPE) Initiative.” The HOPE Initiative would be designed to combat the growing heroin and opioid epidemic in New Jersey by educating the public about the dangers and causes of heroin and opioid addiction, and how to respond appropriately.  The bill requires a collaborative effort between the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse; as well as the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, and, when necessary, the  federal Drug Enforcement Administration, in developing,  coordinating, implementing, and overseeing the HOPE Initiative. 

Below are some of the key goals highlighted in The HOPE Initiative Act:

  • Identify pathways that lead to opioid and heroin abuse
  • Show the new face of heroin and opioid addiction
  • Condemn the abuse and diversion of prescription opioids
  • Describe the effects and warning signs of heroin and opioid use/abuse
  • Show the link that exists between heroin/opioid addiction and suicide
  • Identify the avenues available for those seeking help
  • Highlight the benefits of substance abuse treatment and its capacity to lead to the reclaiming of lives that have been marred by addiction
  • Identify methods available to help finance the cost of treatment
  • Identify the steps individuals and families can take to prevent those they love from experimenting with these types of drugs

To read the full text of this bill CLICK HERE Heroin and Opioid Drug Public Education (HOPE) Initiative

In addition to the HOPE Initiative there are many other groups and organizations throughout NJ that are standing up to take action on this horrible epidemic.  NJTV, New Jersey’s public television network, announced the launch of a new year-long, multi-platform community engagement initiative, Healthy NJ: New Jersey’s Drug Addiction Crisis, aimed at raising awareness and promoting discussion about the state’s drug problems and solutions. CLICK HERE to learn more about this program from NJTV.

On a local level, many towns are implementing their own plans to fight this epidemic. One such example is being developed by the Carneys Point Police, in Salem County. They are starting a free community outreach open to any parents or loved ones in hopes of bringing some hope in times of a drug epidemic. The Police Chaplain Program is active in roughly 40 areas through New Jersey, and works to establish partnerships and relationships between police, sheriff departments, and other law enforcement agencies.

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