burlingtoncountytimes.com: Community joins together to 'Knock Out' opioid epidemic



MOUNT LAUREL — As the sun went down Thursday, dozens of lights at Rowan College at Burlington County flickered in the cool night air, many in memory of a loved one lost to addiction.

John Power, of Lumberton, lit his candle for his son who died last year in Florida when he went there to get treatment. Power said when his son left, he said, “Dad, this time I have to do it on my own.”

Power said his son was found after staying for a night in a “sober home” that did not have anti-overdose naloxone, better known as Narcan, to help revive him. Still, Power said he was hopeful because of events such as Knock Out Opioid Town Hall, which followed the vigil Thursday night, part of the statewide series organized by the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey and the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey.

“And I want to commend you guys tonight for coming together and beginning to turn the tide,” he said.

Over 100 people gathered to hear from a panel that included Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina, Freeholder Linda Hughes and Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra, as well as Suzanne Harrison, co-founder of the nonprofit King's Crusade, Jon Conlin, of Prevention Plus of Burlington County, and Dr. Rachel Haroz, of Cooper University Health Care. The event was hosted by Riverside Lt. Lou Fisher, who founded NJTIP, which helps nonviolent offenders or those who overdose receive treatment instead of jail.

Coffina said the opioid epidemic has continued to get worse over the past few years.

“The data suggests that we have not yet turned the corner in Burlington County,” he said.

Over 100 county residents have died of an overdose through September, more than the 82 people who died during all of 2016.

Coffina said that 30 of the 40 municipalities have had at least one fatal overdose this year, but those numbers could have been worse because, between law enforcement and EMS, in 2015, Narcan was deployed 556 times. In 2016, Coffina said it was 653, and so far through 2017, that number is up to 700.

However, Coffina and Hughes highlighted progress made fighting the crisis, including a new recovery coach program starting soon in the county.

“We’re going to having a program where we basically deploy our recovery specialists to the hospitals (after an overdose),” Hughes said.


Conlin emphasized that they are trying to get to students earlier and prevent them from starting using substances in the first place, beginning with alcohol and marijuana.

“(They) don’t wake up one day and start shooting heroin,” he said.

Anthony Faltz, a social worker, crisis counselor and substance abuse coordinator at Cinnaminson High School, brought a group of students with him to emphasize prevention. He said he wants his students to realize that opioid and heroin use is an issue in their communities.

“It’s not just in the large urban cities,” he said. “It’s in the suburbs.”

Still, Tony Luke, the owner of the famous cheese steak company in Philadelphia who lost his son to an overdose, said he wished there were more people there to help continue the work that needs to be done.

"Where is everyone?" he asked. "This place should be packed."