Lt. Governor Guadagno, Religious Leaders Gather To Address NJ’s Opiate Abuse Epidemic

On the heels today’s Do No Harm Symposium for the faith-based community at Bethel Church in Morristown, the problem of opiate abuse and the community’s role in opiate abuse prevention and recovery is on my mind. Kim Guadagno, the Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey, attended today’s event and clarified the role of the community – we need everyone’s help to save our teenagers from dying due to substance abuse.

New Jersey Lt. Governor Guadagno and PDFNJ Ex. Director Angelo M. Valente

Since 2013, with the support of the Drug Enforcement Administration - New Jersey Division, PDFNJ has had the opportunity to hold symposiums informing and educating physicians across New Jersey, and on two occasions, faith-based leaders.

One of the speakers who came to the event, NJ Recovery Advocate Patrick Roff, also spoke about his own recovery and the struggles of people who are entering treatment. He described this process as frightening for someone who wasn’t sure they could even live without their addictive substance. Mr. Roff, along with the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse’s Rebecca Alfaro, urged everyone in the audience to fight the stigma of addiction. The goal should be to stop thinking of addiction as a character defect. It is a disease that can be treated.

There are few people that embody this goal more than another of our Do No Harm speakers, Glen King, Executive Director of the Freedom House in Clinton, NJ. Freedom House is a recovery organization that focuses not only with curbing a patient’s addiction, but with the wellbeing of the individual. At our event today, Mr. King spoke at length about long term recovery and the mental and physical health challenges someone going through this process might experience. The speakers on the recovery panel all were consistent in their message; they want the people who come to them for help to get better, and they want them to succeed.

A major point from our Faith-based Do No Harm in Morristown today was that it takes a village to help people fight addiction. Those who are suffering from this issue are not bad people, they simply need help. Our responsibility as members of the community is to give them the support they need to move into long-term recovery. This hope also holds true when it comes to prevention. Parents and family members need to be mindful of changes in behavior or attitude of their loved ones, as this can be a symptom of substance abuse.

It’s time we did away with the stigma of addiction once and for all. It’s time we realized the enormous power we have as community. It’s time to put an end to addiction and substance abuse in New Jersey.

For more information on the signs and symptoms of opiate abuse, please visit

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