2017-08-16 / Columns

Join with JFCS on August 31 for International Overdose Awareness Day

STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART
MARLA MEYERS
Executive Director, Jewish Family & Children’s Service

237. 402. 224.

These numbers represent the number of overdose deaths in Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester Counties respectively last year.

252. 428. 223.

These numbers represent the same for 2017 thus far—with four months left in the year.

In New Jersey, deaths from drug overdoses were greater than 2,000 in 2016, killing more people than guns, car accidents, and suicides combined, according to analysis from www.NJ.com. This is an increase from 1,587 in 2015. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the most recent data estimates that 142 Americans die every day from a drug overdose, and more often than not, they are under the age of 25.

Heroin is at the center of the opioid crisis that has killed so many in recent years. The 2,000% growth in fentanyl deaths since 2013 (fentanyl is 50 times more powerful than heroin) shows the drug market is changing dangerously—in a short span of time. Many dealers often lace heroin with fentanyl in order to create a more intense high. Sadly, deaths from overprescribed drugs like Oxycontin continue to rise—highlighting that illegal prescriptions are still a major factor as a gateway to heroin.

It will take some time for organizations, elected officials, families, first responders, medical professionals, and our communities as a whole to slow this ballooning tragedy—but we will fight every step of the way.

Currently, Narcan, an antidote for heroin, is in our police vehicles and elsewhere. Public awareness of this epidemic is on the rise. Legislative support measures are assisting in trying to control the sharp increase of deaths related to addiction. Many police departments in Southern New Jersey have pill drop-off boxes where you can leave your unneeded prescript ions—which should not be left unsupervised or flushed down the toilet. The medical community is rising to monitor prescriptions and usage in very important ways and states are working together reciprocally to share data about patients in order to inhibit pill shopping. Just recently, NJ solidified such a relationship with Pennsylvania, thanks to Congressman Donald Norcross. People are becoming more involved. But, we have much more work to do to put an end to the debilitating impact of drugs on our communities.

JFCS’ Right in Our Backyard addiction awareness and prevention program, co-founded by Gregg Wolfe in memory of his son Justin Wolfe, is making a difference. Through this outreach program, we have facilitated 24 presentations to date, and have educated more than 1,800 young people and their parents in area middle and high schools, youth groups, synagogues, churches, and community centers. Our engaging panelists have covered addiction symptoms, warning signs, real-life stories, resources, and much more. We intend to spread the word as far and wide as it needs to go.

Together, as a society, we must work together. We must continue the momentum toward positive change so that we can end this tidal wave of addictions and tragedy. If you belong to a community group that would like us to bring the Right in Our Backyard program to you free of charge, please be in touch for inclusion in our fall, winter, or spring calendar.

Nationally, the New York Times reported that drug overdoses caused a greater loss of American lives in just one year than were lost during the entire Vietnam War. We have already lost too many in this war against addiction.

Wear something purple, and join us at JFCS on August 31 at 11 a.m., for our “Stand Against Addiction” assembly outside our doors at 1301 Springdale Road in Cherry Hill, where we will gather for a moment to show solidarity and support for all on Overdose Awareness Day.

For more information on the Right in Our Backyard program, please call us at (856) 424-1333, or email Meredith Cohen at mcohen@jfedsnj.org

 mmeyers@jfedsnj.org

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