Thousands go door to door for opioid addiction awareness



Opiate Abuse Awareness
Press of Atlantic City

MILLVILLE — Police officers spread throughout the streets of Holly Village Mobile Home Park as they walked door-to-door Thursday morning, leaving no residence untouched.

They weren’t there on a crime-related assignment or investigation. Their goal was to get residents to see how prescription opioids can be abused and lead to heroin addiction.

More than 2,000 volunteers, professionals and advocates across all counties in New Jersey participated in the first Knock Out Opiate Abuse Day, a statewide prevention and awareness outreach organized by Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey.

“It’s really becoming even more of an epidemic, especially in families” Officer Rick Kott said. “Kids will say they can get alcohol, but it’s still hard. With pills, they’re just in the medicine cabinet. It’s too easy.”

The state Department of Human Services and the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse were also part of the initiative. Angelo Valente, partnership executive director, said the door-to-door outreach on this topic is the first of its kind in the country.

Kott and Millville police officers were joined by volunteers from other Cumberland County departments and the SouthWest Council, a substance-abuse prevention and treatment network based in Vineland.

Kott walked up the blue wooden steps of a mobile home and let a door knob hanger. It had a picture of a young girl lying in a hospital bed with a broken arm.

“Would you give your child heroin for a broken arm? Ask your doctor how prescription drugs can lead to heroin abuse,” it read.

The number of opioid pain relievers prescribed in the U.S. has skyrocketed in the past 25 years, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 62 prescriptions for pain killers were written per 100 residents in New Jersey in 2014.

Heroin, which shares many of the same properties as opioids, has also increased nationwide among all genders and age groups, officials said. Research showed that four out of five new heroin users abused prescription pain relievers before turning to heroin.

“We need to spread the knowledge on how much the prescription pad has led to this current heroin crisis,” said Matthew Rudd, SouthWest director of coalitions and communications.

Betty Ecret was outside her home and stopped to talk to police distributing the information. She had seen how addiction affected people in her community.

Ashleigh Huff, of Cumberland County Human Services, later led a group of volunteers to nearby physicians offices where they sat with prescribers and talked about the importance of following updated CDC guidelines on opioid prescriptions.

“Addiction does not discriminate, and it’s affecting people younger and younger,” Huff said.

Other regional coordinators led groups of people out to neighborhoods and doctors’ offices in Cumberland, Cape May, Atlantic and Ocean counties. Ocean County has the highest rates of opioid overdose deaths in the state.

Atlantic Prevention Resources, Seabrook House, Ocean County’s DART Prevention Coalition and Cape May County departments were just a handful of the participating organizations and agencies.

“It’s an important message, and to have thousands of people out on the streets of New Jersey is very exciting and crucial to stem the epidemic in this state,” Valente said. “The conversations are happening now, and there are new, younger generations to protect as well.”


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