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  • Mother’s Story Helps to Break Down Stigma of Addiction

    Posted 5/22/2019 by Angelo M. Valente

    Tracy Reinholt, who lost her son, Hunter, to a drug overdose, recently told her story to The Jersey Journal. Hunter died on Easter morning after experimenting with gabapentin pills he took from his grandfather’s medicine cabinet.

     

    My heartfelt condolences go out to the entire Reinholt family.

     

    Reinholt, who had previously shared Hunter’s story in his obituary, urged readers to be aware of the dangers of prescription medications and to protect their children from these risks. Many parents that have lost their children to the opioid epidemic have become strong advocates to inform and educate families of the extreme dangers opioids can pose to children and adults alike.

     

    Reinholt and other parents are doing important work by sharing their experiences. These stories help to break down the stigma of addiction by encouraging others to seek help and by reinforcing that addiction is a medical disease that can affect anyone.

  • NJBIZ Health Care Power 50 Announced

    Posted 5/15/2019 by Angelo M. Valente

    This week, I had the honor of being included in the 2019 NJBIZ Health Care Power 50, which highlights the top leaders in the health care field in the state of New Jersey.

     

    While I am appreciative of this personal recognition, I believe this honor says more about the crucial role substance use prevention plays in health care. It is also a sign of the continued effort to break down the stigma of addiction by recognizing drug addiction as a public health issue.

     

    As the opioid crisis continues to take its toll on our state, it has become increasingly necessary for communities and families to understand the dangers of both prescription and illicit drugs and how to protect loved ones from going down the path to addiction.

     

    The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey has played an important role in educating the public through its many school-based programs, the Do No Harm prescriber education series, the 15 Minute Child Break parent education program, the Drug Don’t Work in NJ workplace program and the Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series. This is also a tribute to our many prevention collaborators throughout the state, which have helped to spread important prevention messages in their communities.

     

    Note: The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey will continue its efforts to address the opioid crisis by holding the New Jersey Law Enforcement Training: On the Front Lines of the Opioid Epidemic on Thursday, May 30 at the Tropicana Atlantic City. I invite all New Jersey law enforcement professionals to attend this informative event. Limited seating is still available.

  • Shout Down Drugs Prevention Concert is Next Week

    Posted 5/1/2019 by Angelo M. Valente

    It’s that time of year again. We’re just over a week again from the New Jersey Shout Down Drugs Annual Prevention Concert.

     

    It’s hard to believe this year’s concert will be the 15th in the history of the program, which challenges high school students to create original music with lyrics that contain peer-to-peer substance use prevention messages.

     

    In the previous 14 years, there have been so many great performers and great messages about living healthy, drug-free lives. I am just as excited to see what this year’s 13 finalists have in store for the Prevention Concert at 7 p.m. Friday, May 10th at Rutgers University’s Mastrobuono Theatre. FREE tickets are available HERE or by calling 973-467-2100 ext. 19.

     

    Click HERE to listen to the original songs by this year’s finalists, and make sure to vote for your favorites. Online voting is open through May 9, and these totals will be factored into the performers’ scores on the night of the concert. The student or students who receive the highest score will receive a $5,000 music contract to perform their music at events throughout the state over the next year.

     

    You can also follow PDFNJ and the hashtag #ShoutDownDrugs on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about New Jersey Shout Down Drugs and this year’s contestants. 

  • Chinese Fentanyl Ban to Reduce Supply of Deadly Drug in U.S.

    Posted 4/24/2019 by Angelo M. Valente

    Earlier this month, China announced that it would be banning variations of the powerful synthetic opioid, fentanyl.

     

    Of 70, 237 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2017, 28,466 involved synthetic opioids, mainly fentanyl, which has become the most deadly drug in America’s opioid epidemic in recent years.

     

    A majority of the fentanyl in the United States comes from China, and officials are hopeful that the ban could reduce the supply of fentanyl reaching the United States.

     

    Fentanyl is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. The extremely potent drug is often mixed in with heroin but has also appeared with other substances, such as cocaine and marijuana.

     

    Earlier this year, PDFNJ launched a new campaign illustrating the potent nature of fentanyl. It is vital that New Jersey residents are aware of its deadly effects.

     

    Drug-related deaths in New Jersey have eclipsed record totals in the state in each of the past four years, in large part due to the increase in fentanyl overdoses. Officials estimate more than half of the state’s 3,163 drug overdoses in 2018 involved fentanyl, according to the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General. In 2017, about 1,400 or 50 percent of New Jersey drug overdose deaths were fentanyl-related.

  • State Loosens Restrictions on Medication-Assisted Treatment

    Posted 4/10/2019 by Angelo M. Valente

    The state of New Jersey took an important step forward in the fight against the opioid epidemic last week. Beginning April 1, the Department of Human Services no longer requires approval to begin medication-assisted treatment to treat Medicaid patients for opioid addiction.

     

    Prior to this decision, people struggling with addiction could have to wait days to receive authorization to be prescribed medication-assisted treatment, a delay that could cost someone their life.

     

    Medication-assisted treatment is an important tool in battling opioid addiction. Studies have shown it reduces opioid use and overdose deaths and that patients prescribed medication-assisted treatment were more likely to remain in therapy for their addiction.

     

    Despite this evidence, accessibility to medication-assisted treatment is a major issue throughout the country. I am hopeful more states will follow New Jersey’s lead in broadening access to this important treatment option.

     

    The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey will host its Angel of Hope Gala on Thursday evening. This year’s honoree is Dr. Andrew Kolodny, who will be recognized for his efforts in the fight against the opioid epidemic.

     

    I want to thank all of the sponsors for making the event a huge success, surpassing previous attendance and fundraising records. These funds will help provide free substance use prevention resources crucial to New Jersey families and communities.

  • Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Halls Begin Next Week

    Posted 4/4/2019 by Angelo M. Valente

    The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey’s newest collaboration with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey kicked off last week with the Knock Out Opioid Abuse Summit on the State and Federal Response to the Opioid Epidemic at the Newark Museum. Expert speakers from the state and federal governments provided the capacity crowd an understanding of the opioid crisis and the resources available for communities to address the issue.

     

    The two-year Knock Out Opioid Abuse initiative will feature town halls in 21 communities – one in each county – as well as programs designed to educate parents and prescribers and a media campaign to spread awareness of the epidemic to all residents of New Jersey.

     

    Jonathan Pearson, Executive Director of The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, outlined the initiative last week in an article on Horizon’s Health News website. The three-pronged approach of outreach, education and awareness will serve a vital role in informing New Jersey residents of the risks or opioids and actions that can be taken to address this crisis.

     

    The first of the community town halls will be held 7-9 p.m. Tuesday, April 9 in Robbinsville in Mercer County. To attend this event or to stay informed on town halls in your area, visit knockoutopioidabuse.drugfreenj.org/townhallseries.

  • National and State Leaders Outline Fight Against Opioid Epidemic at Newark Summit

    Posted 3/28/2019 by Angelo M. Valente

    On Wednesday, the Partnership for A Drug-Free New Jersey and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, through its philanthropic arm The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, kicked off a new two-year Knock Out Opioid Abuse initiative to address the opioid epidemic through community outreach, prescriber education, parent education and a statewide awareness campaign.

     

    The Knock Out Opioid Abuse Summit on the State and Federal Response to the Opioid Epidemic, held at the Newark Museum, provided a capacity crowd of more than 250 attendees with a comprehensive overview of the efforts being made at the state and federal levels to stem the tide of the opioid crisis.

     

    A video of the full event can be viewed at knockoutopioidabuse.drugfreenj.org.

     

    The Knock Out Opioid Abuse initiative will continue with a series of 21 town halls that will be held in communities throughout the state, beginning April 9 with the first of these events in Robbinsville in Mercer County. Visit knockoutopioidabuse.drugfreenj.org/townhallseries to learn when future town halls will be held in communities near you.

     

    The Knock Out Opioid Abuse initiative also focuses on educating prescribers through an online continuing medical education course and spreading important prevention messages to parents through the 5th Grade Parent Alert. A Knock Out Opioid Abuse statewide awareness campaign will also help to bring important information about the crisis to residents throughout New Jersey.

     

    The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey is excited to work with Horizon once again to help raise awareness about Knock Out Opioid Abuse in New Jersey.

  • Marijuana Legalization Vote Set for Monday

    Posted 3/22/2019 by Angelo M. Valente

    The New Jersey State Legislature is nearing a decision to legalize marijuana for recreational use. This week, guest bloggers Nancy N. Delogu, Esq., and Alan I. Model, Esq., of Littler, Washington, D.C., write about the potential impact on the workplace. On April 9, Nancy Delogu, Esq., will be in New Jersey to speak about this issue at the annual Drugs Don’t Work in NJ Legal Issues of a Drug-Free Workplace Seminar at Perona Farms in Andover. Click HERE for more information and to register to attend.

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    New Jersey Poised to Enact First Recreational Marijuana Law Protecting Workers from Adverse Employment Action

     

    By Nancy N. Delogu and Alan I. Model

     

    New Jersey’s legislature is scheduled to vote Monday, March 25, 2019, on a bill designed to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21, create a system by which marijuana and marijuana products will be taxed and sold, and expunge prior convictions for possession or distribution of cannabis products under state law.  The “New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory and Expungement Aid Modernization Act,” (“Modernization Act”), in its current form, contains employment law protections for individuals who use marijuana.  If enacted, it will be the first recreational marijuana law in the nation to explicitly protect individuals who choose to use marijuana from “discrimination” on the basis of such use.

     

    Employment Law Protections

     

    The Modernization Act provides:

     

    No employer shall refuse to hire or employ any person or shall discharge from employment or take any adverse action against any employee with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or other privileges of employment because that person does or does not smoke or use cannabis items, unless the employer has a rational basis for doing so which is reasonably related to the employment, including the responsibilities of the employee or prospective employee.

     

    And, although the bill also states that nothing in it “requires an employer to amend or repeal…[policies] to maintain a drug and alcohol free workplace or require an employer to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, being under the influence, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale, or growth of cannabis or cannabis items in the workplace, or to affect the ability of employers to have policies prohibiting cannabis use or intoxication by employees during work hours,” it is silent as to whether employers can continue to preclude employees from engaging in off-work marijuana use.

     

    The bill does not define or suggest what sort of “rational basis” an employer would need to demonstrate for declining to hire or employ a marijuana user, or if a drug-free workplace policy that prohibits all use of cannabis would be upheld absent some demonstration that its application had a rational basis as applied to the individual in question.  Regardless of how the bill would eventually be interpreted or enforced, if enacted, New Jersey would be the first in the nation to explicitly protect individuals who use marijuana away from work, or who work for employers that do not have clear policies prohibiting cannabis use or intoxication.

  • March 27 Summit Speakers Announced​

    Posted 3/13/2019 by Angelo M. Valente

    The Knock Out Opioid Abuse Summit on the State and Federal Response to the Opioid Epidemic is just two weeks away. This event will provide New Jersey residents and leaders in the fight against the opioid epidemic valuable information on the state and federal efforts to stem the tide of this epidemic, as well as the resources available to address the crisis in communities throughout New Jersey.

     

    I am excited to share with you the list of our distinguished panelists for the summit, who will outline the epidemic from their unique perspective.  Summit speakers will include:

     

    • Rita Noonan, PhD, Deputy Director for Non-Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    • Dr. Anthony Ferreri, Regional Director, Region II of the United States Department of Health and Human Services
    • Susan Gibson, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration – New Jersey Division
    • Anne Hazlett, Senior Adviser for Rural Affairs for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy
    • Sharon Joyce, Director of NJ CARES (Coordinated Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies), New Jersey Office of the Attorney General
    • Suzanne M. Kunis, Director, Behavioral Health Solutions, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey
    • Erica Liu, Chief, Opioid Abuse Prevention and Enforcement Unit Assistant U.S. Attorney at U.S. Attorney’s Office – District of New Jersey

    These experts will provide vital information on the opioid crisis from a federal and state perspective and share innovations and best practices that can be replicated or implemented at the local level.

     

    If you are interested in attending the summit, please register at knockoutopioidabuse.drugfreenj.org/summit. A limited number of spaces are available. Registration is required to attend.

  • Did the FDA Spark the Opioid Epidemic?

    Posted 3/7/2019 by Angelo M. Valente

    Can changing a few words on a prescription label be the reason for the current opioid epidemic facing our country?  According to drug manufacturer Ed Thompson, the FDA is at the root of the problem.

     

    The expanded use of opioid pain medication was precipitated by a label change that says the pain pills are effective for “daily, around-the-clock, long-term...treatment.”  According to Thompson, this label change allowed drug companies to expand the marketing of opioids in higher doses for a longer duration.

     

    For example, when Oxycontin was first approved by the FDA is was for short-term use, however in 2001, the FDA decision to change the label, allowed for the use of Oxycontin to be prescribed to patients with chronic ailments such as arthritis and back pain. Did this fateful decision by the FDA cause society to face its current opioid crisis?

     

    Watch the story unfold on “60 Minutes” 

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