Downbeach towns team up vs. opioid addiction


Paula Maccagnano

A Ventnor woman who has been directly exposed to addiction and recovery is sick of hearing about the opioid and heroin epidemic.

“It’s time to act,” Paula Maccagnano said. “Instead of creating awareness, it’s time to take an aggressive approach to combat the problem.”

Following Join Together Atlantic County’s Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day on Oct. 6, both Ventnor and Margate are joining the statewide initiative organized by the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey and will be hosting events in the coming weeks to focus on addiction and what can be done about it.


Join Together’s initiative mobilized communities to distribute materials that raise awareness, including at doctors’ offices, public spaces and in neighborhoods.

Margate will be doing its part at the annual Health Fair Tuesday, Oct. 24, at the Municipal Building, 9001 Winchester Ave. The event is for employees of all three Downbeach communities.

In addition to blood pressure and diabetes screenings and providing information about how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, the fair will distribute information about opioid addiction.

Margate Chief Financial Officer Lisa McLaughlin, who is organizing the event, read a proclamation for Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day at the Board of Commissioners meeting Oct. 11 that aimed to educate health care providers and the community about the correlation between opioid abuse and heroin addiction.

“This topic is near and dear to my heart, because I recently lost a classmate of my daughter who was like a son to me,” McLaughlin said.

He was just 21 years old when he died and was the second person she knew in Margate to pass away at a young age from addiction, she said.

“We need to do whatever we can to save our children,” she said. “This needs to stop.”

Atlantic Prevention Resources, Enlightened Solutions and Stop the Heroin will be in attendance at the health fair, McLaughlin said.

“It’s incumbent upon all of us to educate our children and help those people suffering from addiction. These are good people. We need to do our part,” she said.

A Ventnor Municipal Alliance event will be held 3-6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, at the Community Center behind the library at 6500 Atlantic Ave. It is open to the public.

In addition to Charlie Kerley of the Atlantic County Alliance providing Narcan training, police and fire officials will discuss the latest protocols employed when they respond to an overdose call, Maccagnano said.

Two other organizations that offer after-care and follow-up for overdose survivors and those in recovery will be in attendance.

“I have been involved and directly exposed to addiction. I know what works and what has helped people. It’s not that simple to stop using drugs, and more needs to be done to help those who want to stop,” she said.

Maccagnano will provide those who attend with a bag filled with information and resources that can help someone get into recovery and offer the life skills they need to keep them from using again.

“It’s a simple gesture to do instead of just talking about it,” she said. “We want to empower people to take action.”

Maccagnano believes the public is well aware of the problem, but some still look negatively at those who are addicts.

Like McLaughlin, who said even good people are becoming addicted, Maccagnano said people are working around the clock to “break the stigma” that addicts are bad people.

“If it was swine flu or some other pandemic, people would be taking action to protect their families. But because it’s addiction, it’s another story.”