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  • Prevention Still the Key to Reversing Opioid Crisis

    Posted 11/30/2017 by Angelo M. Valente

    December is almost here, and with it 2017 begins to wind down. This year has presented many challenges but also great progress in the fight against the opioid epidemic ravaging New Jersey and the United States.

     

    The launching of the Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series with the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey has helped to spread important dialogue about the opioid epidemic to counties throughout the state.

     

    The continuation of the Do No Harm Symposium Series, co-sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration – New Jersey Division and the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, has brought the message of safer prescribing practices to doctors and dentists.

     

    However, more steps need to be taken to address the disease of addiction and its horrific effects. A recent study conducted by the Trust for America’s Health and the Well Being Trust projected that the rate of drug- and alcohol-related deaths and suicides in New Jersey could increase significantly in the next several years if proper action is not taken.

     

    The state’s death rate for these three causes, which measured at 30.5 per 100,000 people in 2015, could rise to 44.4 per 100,000 by 2025.

     

    The report suggests a strategy with greater emphasis on prevention to avoid the possible rise in death rate. New Jersey residents will have opportunities to engage in prevention-focused events as the year winds down.

  • Happy Thanksgiving

    Posted 11/22/2017 by Angelo M. Valente

    On behalf of all of us at the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, I wish you and your loved ones a Happy Thanksgiving.

    Tomorrow, millions of families around the country will enjoy quality time with their loved ones on Thanksgiving. As we count our blessings, let us not forget those who have lost their lives to the disease of addiction or those who are currently battling it. 

    We are thankful for the efforts being made to address the opioid epidemic and all forms of addiction, and we are hopeful that more can be done to saves lives of those currently fighting this terrible disease.

    New Jersey will support and remember people who have battled addiction at 5 p.m. Wednesday, December 6th in Trenton where Governor Christie will hold a 2nd Annual Candlelight Vigil. The event will support the people, families, and loved ones impacted by substance use issues and honor the lives taken by addiction.

    This call to action for eliminating the stigma surrounding this disease will gather the statewide recovery community and the loved ones of those affected to bring addiction out of the shadows and into the light.

    Because the fight against the opioid epidemic and other forms of addiction will take a comprehensive community effort, the governor has asked all residents to be a part of ending stigmas while lighting a candle for loved ones and helping bring addiction out of the shadows and into the light.

    Help spread the word about the vigil by sharing this event with others using #IllBeThereWillYou on social media and visiting www.nj.gov/governor/vigil2017.

  • New Jersey to Sue Manufacturer of OxyContin

    Posted 11/1/2017 by Angelo M. Valente

    Over the past decade, the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey has been at the forefront of alerting both the public and the medical community about the inherent risks of dependency associated with opioids prescribed for acute and long-term pain.

    The Partnership was particularly concerned with opioids being safely prescribed to children, because a young person’s brain is still developing well into their early 20s and many believe adding opioids to a developing brain increases the potential for addiction.

    As a result of current legal actions, the public and the medical community hopefully will become better informed of the limited and appropriate usages of these medications, as well as the real potential for addiction that these drugs pose.

    The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey began its Do No Harm Symposium Series in 2013 to start a dialogue with doctors and dentists on appropriate and safe measures to take when prescribing opioids.

    While this information is no consolation for hundreds of thousands of families that currently are dealing with a loved one who is suffering from the disease of addiction, we are hopeful that as new information is revealed about the potential for dependency and addiction to prescribed opioids, millions of Americans will be spared from the horrific consequences of the opioid epidemic.

  • National Rx Take Back Day is Tomorrow

    Posted 10/27/2017 by Angelo M. Valente

    National Rx Take Back Day is a good reminder to families to safe guard their homes by taking the 5-Step American Medicine Chest Challenge:

    1. Take inventory of the medicines in your home
    2. Dispose of any unused, unwanted and expired medicine
    3. Secure the medicines you keep
    4. Take your prescription as directed
    5. Speak to children about the dangers of misusing and abusing prescription drugs 

    Prescription drug drop boxes are available 24 hours, seven days a week in many communities and can be located using the AMCC RX Drop mobile app.

  • You’re Invited to Safe Communities Coalition’s Annual Professional Fall Conference

    Posted 10/14/2017 by Angelo M. Valente

    There have been several informative events about the opioid epidemic held during the past month, in conjunction with Recovery Month in September and Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day earlier in October. For this week’s guest blog, we have invited Jerri Collevechio, Senior Director of Prevention Resources and Director of the Safe Communities Coalition in Somerset County, to discuss the upcoming Breaking Barriers to Succeed conference.

     

    By Jerri Collevechio

     

    The Safe Communities Coalition of Hunterdon/Somerset County and Prevention Resources, Inc. are excited to host the Annual Professional Fall Conference: Breaking Barriers to Succeed at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25 at Raritan Valley Community College.

     

    The conference features keynote speaker The Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy, who will address “The Stigma of Mental Health, Substance Misuse and the Latest on the Opioid Crisis." Kennedy is a bestselling author, founder of two visionary nonprofit organizations, former congressman, corporate leader and the youngest child of former Senator Ted Kennedy. Kennedy will provide a compelling presentation detailing his personal and political battle with mental illness and addiction, exploring mental health care's history in the country alongside his and every family's private struggles.

     

    The conference also features Christopher Jakim, Assistant Special Agent in Charge with the Drug Enforcement Administration – New Jersey Division, presenting “The Dangers of Fentanyl.” Overdoses and overdose deaths have increased in recent years in part due to heroin laced with fentanyl, adding to the opioid public health crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. With the availability of fentanyl on the street, it not only poses a threat to the community, but to law enforcement. 

  • New Jersey Residents Take a Stand to Knock Out Opioid Abuse

    Posted 10/11/2017 by Angelo M. Valente

    Thanks to the help of an estimated 6,000 volunteers last Friday throughout the state, vital information on the risks of prescription opioids and their links to heroin abuse reached hundreds of thousands of New Jersey residents on the second annual Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day. This event would not have been possible without the support of county KOOAD coordinators, thousands of NJ students, law enforcement officers, elected officials, the prevention, treatment & medical communities, and most importantly – families who have been directly impacted by the opioid epidemic. Thank you all for making this day so successful.

    Residents canvassed neighborhoods delivering door hangers to houses in their towns, while also visiting the offices of healthcare professionals to present prescribers with key information on safer prescribing practices. The distribution of these materials, which were also spread through social media, represented a true community achievement as elected officials, police departments, community groups, local businesses, schools and others all did their part to spread awareness of the opioid crisis and arm citizens with the necessary information to prevent or address addiction.

    With opioid abuse impacting our state at an epidemic level, now was the time to educate and raise awareness, and our volunteers certainly responded.

    The news media captured the extraordinary efforts of volunteers throughout the state, which helped to further expand the reach of this life-saving initiative. Please take the time to read and watch some of the following stories detailing another successful Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day.

  • Seniors Are the Forgotten Victims of the Opioid Epidemic

    Posted 9/26/2017 by Angelo M. Valente

    When many people think about the tragedies associated with the opioid epidemic, their thoughts often turn solely to the young faces of teens and adults in their 20s whose lives were cut short far too soon due to an overdose.

     

    However, adults aged 50 or older have been impacted significantly by the crisis as well, with studies showing that misuse among older Americans has increased over the past decade.

     

    While adults 50 and older were still the least likely age group to misuse opioids at 2.0 percent in 2014, that figure more than doubled the percentage from a decade before, according to a study released earlier this year by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

     

    A CBS news report, featuring the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, on how the national opioid crisis has affected older adults will air tonight during the 11 p.m. news. The story will detail several issues that senior citizens and older adults could face when prescribed opioids.

     

    Because people in this age group commonly undergo medical procedures and often are prescribed opioid painkillers, it is important for them to learn about the addictive nature of these medications.

     

    Opioids also can pose a danger because they can end up in the hands of family members and friends. Adults should always keep their medications in secure locations, so they are not diverted for potential misuse.

     

    Please tune in to CBS-New York Channel 2 at 11 p.m. tonight to learn more about how the opioid epidemic is impacting our senior citizens.

  • Guest Blog from Hope and Healing after an Addiction Death

    Posted 9/11/2017 by Angelo M. Valente

    In the midst of the opioid epidemic ravaging our country, it’s important to stop and remember the mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, friends and loved ones who have lost their battle with addiction. As it was discussed at the first four Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Halls, the stigma of addiction is a large barrier in effectively addressing the opioid epidemic, but vigils and other remembrances honoring overdose victims help break that stigma. Below is a guest blog from Gail Cole, who helped establish Hope and Healing after an Addiction Death following her son’s overdose death in 2014. To find out how you can get involved in helping to address the opioid abuse epidemic, sign-up for a Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall at knockoutopioidabuse.drugfreenj.org. Join the conversation and be part of the solution in your community.

     

    Candlelight Vigil in Bergen County Honors Those Who Have Lost Battle with Addiction

    By Gail Cole

     

    As the heroin and opioid epidemic continues its path of devastation across the country, it is important to take a moment, and remember all those lost to the disease of addiction. On January 4, 2014, I lost my beautiful son, Brendan, to an accidental heroin overdose at age 22. There are no words to describe losing my son, but suffice it to say that my heart has been irreparably broken, my life changed forever, and my mind still filled with disbelief and endless questions.

     

    In 2015, I co-founded a bereavement group named Hope and Healing after an Addiction Death, along with Lani Bonifacic. In the perfect world, this group should not have to exist, but it does and has become an incredible community of wonderful people, all walking the same indescribably difficult journey through grief. We call it the "crappy club," one that no one wants to belong to...but here we all are. Most of the tragic losses have been related to opioids and heroin. 

     

    Last year, Hope and Healing held a Candlelight Vigil to honor those who have lost their battle with addiction, to promote hope and healing and eliminate the stigma and shame associated with the disease of addiction. We thought that we might have 50 people; we were overwhelmed when 250 people showed up, including family, friends and many community leaders. People who attended were shocked by the multitude of people suffering losses, but many felt they had found a home, a safe place to cry and honor their loved ones, and left knowing that they were not alone in their grief. It was incredibly heartwarming to see the community come together and support those suffering with deep grief. It was a huge step towards eliminating the stigma and shame.

  • Back to School!

    Posted 9/6/2017 by Angelo M. Valente

    Good luck to all the New Jersey students heading back to school this week – and to their parents and educators!

     

    It’s the time of year that both children and parents experience a wave of emotions, from sadness that summer has ended to nervousness at the start of a new school year.

     

    However, this is also a time of great excitement as the new school year ushers in new friends, new challenges and new experiences in children’s lives.

     

    The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey offers education and awareness resources to schools, families, and communities, and I invite you and your school district to sign up for these initiatives today. 

     

    Sign up today for the 15 Minute Child Break and the 5th Grade Parent Alert. Both are aimed at parents, providing them vital facts and resources. Teachers/school districts click HERE to request 5th Grade parent alerts. PDFNJ is currently inviting fourth grade students to submit artwork for the 2018 Fun Things To Do Instead of Drugs Folder contest. More than 7,000 students entered last year’s Fourth Grade Folder Contest, submitting artistic prevention messages that displayed the creativity of New Jersey students. The two winners chosen during the spring will have their work displayed on folders being distributed to fourth grade classes throughout the state for the 2017-18 school year. Please encourage your school district to participate in the 4th Grade Folder Contest by clicking HERE

     

    Of course, every school needs a music program, and PDFNJ’s efforts in schools would not be complete without New Jersey Shout Down Drugs high school music competition, which is gearing up for the 2018 school year. For the past 13 years, talented students from all over New Jersey have written original songs focusing on prevention, culminating in the annual Prevention Concert. At the end of a night filled with great performances and inspiring messages, three winners are chosen to continue to spread their message in performances during the following year.

     

    As the opioid misuse and abuse epidemic continues to impact our state, I also encourage students, parents, school officials and any other citizen to become part of the conversation to address this issue at a Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall event, or to join the efforts of October 6th’s Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day.

     

    I wish you all a great school year!

  • Limiting Dental Opioid Prescriptions Key in Fighting Epidemic

    Posted 8/30/2017 by Angelo M. Valente

    When it comes to the discussion on establishing safer prescribing practices among members of the medical community, one group that often is omitted from that conversation is dentists.

     

    However, dental professionals in New Jersey have taken a proactive approach in helping to address the opioid epidemic.

     

    Last fall, the New Jersey Dental Association (NJDA) released guidelines to its members on safe prescribing and dosing of prescription opioids. The NJDA also was proactive in promoting dialogue between dentists and their patients on the addictive nature of opioids and possible alternatives that exist for treating pain.

     

    Further efforts are on the horizon, as the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey is planning a Do No Harm Symposium for dental professionals sometime this fall.

     

    The article below, which appeared in The Roanoke Times earlier this month details how the attitudes on prescribing of a dental professor at Virginia Commonwealth University changed following the overdose death of his 21-year-old son in 2014.

     

    “This is the only disease created by doctors,” said Dr. Omar Abubaker told the publication. “And it could be fixed by doctors.”

     

    From roanoke.com:

    VCU professor who lost son to overdose aims to change opioid prescribing practices

     

    A picture in VCU Health’s ambulatory center downtown looks, from a distance, like a tree.

     

    “But if you get closer,” said Dr. Omar Abubaker, “you see it’s actually a collection of faces and images. To me, the opioid epidemic, both to clinicians and to the public, it’s from a distance. If I say, ‘Opioid epidemic,’ the first thing you think about are the graphs, the number of people that died, the statistics.

     

    “For those of us that are affected, it’s about faces, memories, sons and daughters.”

     

    Abubaker is the chair of Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Dentistry’s Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. He has been with the school for more than 25 years and, for most of his career, he was like every other doctor when it came to prescribing opioids: It was a habit.

     

    But all that changed in September 2014, when his son died of an overdose of heroin, an illicit opioid drug.

     

    The experience radically shifted not just Abubaker’s personal life, but his professional one, too.

     

    Suddenly, he wasn’t seeing the opioid epidemic in terms of charts and graphs and startlingly large annual death numbers, including 1,133 in Virginia last year. He was seeing his 21-year-old son.

     

    And he knows — probably as well as anyone — how providers’ prescribing practices have fed the opioid epidemic. Though he isn’t certain what caused his son, Adam, to use heroin, he does know he was probably over-prescribed opioid painkillers following surgeries when he was a teenager — the same drugs that Abubaker used to frequently prescribe.

     

    “Both in medicine and dentistry, the Hippocratic Oath says, ‘Do no harm,’ ” Abubaker said. ‘In fact, ‘Do no harm,’ comes even before, ‘Do good.’

     

    “So the ‘Do no harm’ part comes down to how we stop prescribing medications as much as we have in the past.

     

    “And the ‘Do good,’ is to see if our society — or any of us — can do something to make this better, to help the families affected.”

     

    Providers have already started changing their prescribing practices, with federal data showing a dip in the most popular painkillers beginning around 2013 in Virginia. The state is also beginning to see fewer prescription painkiller deaths. In the first quarter of 2017, 113 people died from prescription opioids, down from 124 who had died at the same time last year.

     

    But people cut off from the painkillers they grew addicted to have turned to illegal versions of the same basic drug in the form of heroin and fentanyl, offsetting any progress made on the prescription side. There were 127 heroin overdose fatalities so far this year, compared with 110 last year. The deadlier drug fentanyl is killing even more people — 190 so far this year, compared with 145 this time last year.

     

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