National and State Leaders Gather at RWJ Hospital to Develop Solutions to NJ Opioid Abuse Epidemic



Press Release: October 1, 2014

Contact: Angela Conover,, 201-916-1030, Matt Scuteri,, 201-916-1032


National and State Leaders Gather at RWJ to Develop Solutions to NJ Opioid Abuse Epidemic

NEW BRUNSWICK-- With New Jersey in the grips of an opioid abuse epidemic, physicians from across the state gathered at the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey’s (PDFNJ) Do No Harm Symposium, today, to discuss and develop solutions to stem this public health crisis. They were joined by Andrew C. Carey, Middlesex County Prosecutor, Carl J. Kotowski, Special Agent in Charge of the New Jersey Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Steve C. Lee, Acting Director, New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and officials from all hospitals in Middlesex County – JFK Medical Center, Raritan Bay Medical Center, and St. Peter’s Healthcare System, and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, who hosted the event.

“Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that the prescribing of opioids by clinicians has increased threefold in the last 20 years. Today, the number of people who die from prescription opioids exceeds the number of those who die from heroin and cocaine, combined,” said Angelo M. Valente, executive director of PDFNJ. “With opioid abuse at catastrophic levels in our state, the Do No Harm symposium allows leaders and stakeholders from the medical community and law enforcement to come together to discuss solutions for opioid abuse in our state. There are no easy answers. Today, we gathered not to assign blame or look for scapegoats but instead to find and discuss real common sense solutions to this epidemic that is ravaging New Jersey,” explained Valente.

Kotowski added, “The opioid abuse abuse problem is a plague currently threatening our communities locally and nationally.  The Do No Harm symposium stressed that this is not a problem that can be solved by any one entity.  There needs to be cooperation among law enforcement, prevention organizations, physicians and pharmacists to help tackle this issue.”

 “As one of only three Level I Trauma Centers in New Jersey and the only Pediatric Trauma Center in the state, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital regularly treats some of the most serious illnesses and injuries suffered by both adults and children. We are keenly aware of the toll that substance abuse takes on our adults and our children. That’s why we are proud to join with PDFNJ and serve as host for this year’s Do No Harm Symposium,” said Stephen K. Jones, FACHE, President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Robert Wood Johnson Health System.

“JFK Medical Center understands how important it is for our Medical Staff to remain informed about a topic that impacts everyone in the communities we proudly serve. JFK’s commitment to this symposium demonstrates the attention and seriousness we place on this topic,” noted Steven Weiss, JFK Health Corporate Director of Public Relations & Marketing.

“Medical Society of New Jersey (MSNJ) was thrilled to be a sponsor and a part of this important event and is committed to reducing drug abuse and diversion, while protecting access for true patient needs. We hope for increased education about abuse and addiction for all stakeholders,” noted Mishael Azam, Chief Operating Officer and Senior Manager, Legislative Affairs MSNJ.

National and local abuse trends we discussed at the symposium, along with New Jersey’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs' initiative to halt the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs, along with other legal and medical solutions. According to the CDC, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills and each day, 46 people die from an overdose of prescription painkillers in the United States.