Blog

  • Educating Families... a Key to Prevention

    Posted 2/14/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    Sharing knowledge with parents has always been the cornerstone of PDFNJ. We are pleased to share with you today a recent segment from Inside Edition that features longtime PDFNJ collaborators Special Agent Tim McMahon, Community Outreach Coordinator DEA-NJ Division and Donna DeStefano, Founder and CEO of Parents in Connection for Kids Inc.

     

    In this featured segment Tim shares important information on unexpected places in each of our homes that can be used to hide drugs and paraphernalia.

     

    With PDFNJ’s continued focus on families, I would like to share with all of you information about the 3rd Annual Breakfast for Families and Communities Impacted by Opioid Abuse. This complimentary breakfast will be held on Wednesday, February 28, 2018 at the Aloft Mount Laurel Hotel in Mt. Laurel, NJ.

     

    Reservations are required and anyone interested in attending can register here.

  • King’s Crusade Honors Victim of the Opioid Epidemic

    Posted 2/7/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    This week I welcome Suzanne Harrison, Anne Gutos and Judy DiGiacomo to the blog to discuss the mission of King’s Crusade, which they founded following the overdose death of Suzanne and Anne’s brother and Judy’s son, King Shaffer, in 2016.

     

    King was one of approximately 2,000 New Jerseyans to die of an opioid overdose that year. King’s Crusade helps provide assistance for those with limited resources seeking treatment. Suzanne, Anne and Judy’s powerful story is an example of the pain this epidemic has inflicted upon families and communities.

     

    I also recently joined Steve Adubato on “State of Affairs,” along with Assistant Special Agent in Charge Christopher Jakim of the Drug Enforcement Administration – New Jersey Division, to discuss progress made in fighting the opioid crisis. The show will air today at 5:30 p.m. on WHYY and Friday at 4:30 p.m. on FiOS 1 New Jersey. It can also be viewed HERE.

     

     

    By Suzanne Harrison, Anne Gutos and Judy DiGiacomo

    He was born King W. Shaffer on Dec. 7, 1966, and even as a baby, he was a fighter. In the first days of his life, King’s mom was told he wasn’t going to make it through the night. He proved them wrong.

     

    In his school days, he was teased over his name – even by his teachers. He learned to navigate through it despite having several learning disabilities.

     

    He was a typical if not “mischievous” adolescent who was disciplined with old school ways – by a male figure with a leather belt. He took it.

     

    He enrolled in the Navy in San Diego California and advanced to the Coronado Naval Base as a Navy SEAL in training – he passed “hell week.”

     

    King was a fighter – a crusader in his “first life” we were told – but in this life, his battle with addiction was not to be won.

     

    In 1996, King broke his back on a wave runner and was knocked unconscious. He was later airlifted to a hospital where he was then prescribed Percocet.

  • Using Naloxone to Save Lives

    Posted 1/31/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    A recent study released by PDFNJ found that more than half of respondents to a survey on opioids had little or no concern about the risk of injury or death posed by prescription opioids. These troubling numbers indicate there are some gaps in New Jersey residents’ knowledge on the topic.

     

    The study also provided a look into how much state residents know about Naloxone. More than 80 percent of survey respondents had heard of Naloxone, but less than 50 percent did not know much about it or how to use it.

     

    In the midst of this horrifying opioid epidemic, the use of Naloxone has been a lifesaver for thousands of New Jersey residents. The opioid overdose reversal antidote is carried by most law enforcement personnel and emergency responders, but average citizens are also capable of saving lives with Naloxone.

     

    The Overdose Prevention Agency Corporation (TOPAC) trains people how to recognize an overdose and how to administer Naloxone. The organization also educates residents on the Overdose Prevention Act and provides information on treatment and recovery resources.

     

    This week’s guest blog is from TOPAC CEO and President Paul Ressler.

     

    By Paul Ressler

     

    I personally know what it is like to lose someone you love to a drug overdose. On July 14, 2010, I lost my son, Corey, that way.  After years of struggling with the disease of addiction, Corey overdosed. The friends he was with at the time abandoned him — a 911 call not completed. Because I was not alone —drug overdose deaths in New Jersey are the leading cause of accidental death — I knew I had to change the laws concerning helping someone who has experienced an overdose. 

  • Addiction is a Disease

    Posted 1/24/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    This past Sunday, I was deeply troubled to read in the Star Leger an editorial that still questioned the fact that addiction is a disease. Below, is a response to that editorial from PDFNJ’s Board Co-Chair, Elaine Pozycki.

     

    The timing of Elaine’s response and this discussion is coincidentally but appropriately timed with my appearance on tonight’s opioid crisis segment on the 11 p.m. news on CBS – New York Channel 2.

     

    I, along with Vanessa Vitolo of Victory Bay Recovery Center and Mariel Hufnagel of The Ammon Foundation — two collaborators from our Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series — will be discussing the epidemic and addiction from all angles – from patient notification to support of long term recovery. I encourage you to watch and to share this information to educate others on the disease of addiction and important steps we can all take to prevent and raise awareness about substance use disorder.

     

    By Elaine Pozycki

    Regarding the op-ed article on the ReachNJ ads, “Tax money is still going to polish Christie’s image” (January 21):

     

    The author demonstrates, at best, a misunderstanding of the accepted science on addiction and, at worst, a willful dismissal of it.

     

    He writes that he doesn’t believe the “idea that addiction is a disease,” despite the American Society of Addiction Medicine defining addiction as a disease in which there are dysfunctions in the “brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.” These dysfunctions cause those with addiction to pathologically continue using substances despite negative mental, emotional and physical effects.

  • Opioid Epidemic Drives Decrease in American Life Expectancy

    Posted 1/17/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    I started 2018 with positive news about the impact prevention can have in addressing the opioid epidemic. Unfortunately, it’s now time to share some tragic news that too many Americans have already dealt with personally.

    Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that American life expectancy at birth dropped for the second consecutive year, driven mainly by the overdose deaths of more than 63,000 people in the United States during 2016.

    A vast majority of those overdoses involved prescription opioids and heroin, and deaths due to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids increased from 9,580 in 2015 to 19,413 in 2016.

    The life expectancy of an American dropped a tenth of a year, from 78.7 years to 78.6 years. This represents the first time in more than 50 years that life expectancy at birth dropped two consecutive years.

    Unfortunately, limited data so far available for 2017 indicates a continued increase in drug overdose deaths.

    The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey will continue to fight the opioid epidemic through the Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series, organized with The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey. We encourage New Jersey residents to attend the upcoming town halls in 2018.

    But beyond just attending these meetings, residents need to act. Speak with friends and neighbors about the risks of prescription opioids and the need to dispose of old and unused medications. Talk to your children about the dangers of drug use. Get involved with local prevention groups to spread these messages more widely throughout your community.

    There are many ways that you can be a part of the solution to turn the tide against this tragic epidemic, and your help is crucial to make progress in this fight.

  • Aiding Those in Recovery Through Education

    Posted 1/10/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    Supporting long-term recovery is a major component of fighting the opioid epidemic but one that often is overshadowed. The Ammon Foundation, founded last March, aids those recovering the disease of addiction by providing support to continue education.

    This week’s blog is courtesy of Mariel Hufnagel, Executive Director of the Ammon Foundation whose inspiring story of recovery has been featured in the ReachNJ campaign. Mariel has been a major collaborator with PDFNJ, speaking at events including the faith-based Do No Harm Symposium and several Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Halls.

    The Ammon Foundation: Our How and Why

    By Mariel Hufnagel

    The country is in the midst of an opioid epidemic that is claiming an average of 91 deaths per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Overdose deaths have increased steadily over the last 15 years. However, addiction is not a new problem, and there is so much that can be done to effectively support an individual’s recovery. One way to encourage sobriety and stability is through the pursuit of education.

  • A Good Start to the New Year

    Posted 1/3/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    Happy New Year! The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey is pleased to start off 2018 with some good news about the impact of prevention.

     

    A recent study conducted by PDFNJ revealed that a media campaign on the opioid epidemic helped motivate New Jersey residents to step up their efforts to prevent opioid abuse in their homes and community.

     

    Adults in a mid-sized New Jersey community who recalled receiving the prevention messages reported taking an average of at least two preventative measures to combat opioid abuse, while those who had not received the information averaged one preventative action.

     

    Preventive actions assessed in the study included seeking more information on opioids, locking medicine cabinets and disposing of unused medications in different ways. The number of adults who talked to a child about the risks of opioids increased by nearly 15 points, from 26.6 percent before receiving campaign information to 41.2 percent after the campaign.

     

    These results provide another example of the power of prevention campaigns to educate and motivate people to protect themselves and their families from opioid addiction. Awareness is vitally important to stemming the opioid epidemic, and media campaigns will continue to play a key role in educating people around the state and country.

     

    Much more work needs to be done to fight the opioid crisis, but this is an important sign that prevention efforts work and will be a big part of the solution to the epidemic as we begin 2018.

  • Community in Crisis Opens Center Promoting Healthy Lifestyles

    Posted 12/27/2017 by Angelo M. Valente

    This week’s guest blog has been written by contributed by Community in Crisis, a coalition that focuses on addressing the opioid crisis in the Somerset Hills communities in Somerset County.

    The group has been a great collaborator in multiple Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey programs, including Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day and the Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series.

     

    The following provided by Community in Crisis:

    Picture yourself in a living room – maybe like yours or mine – with deep cozy sofas, warm lighting and peaceful music. Now add some really good coffee, free WiFi, a computer bar, dynamic programming and engaging speakers, and you might find yourself sitting in the beautiful new center recently opened by Community in Crisis!

    Nestled in the bucolic Somerset Hills village of Bernardsville, our new center offers everyone something of interest and benefit. Close to Interstates 287 and 78 and within walking distance of Bernardsville train station, the center is easily accessible and convenient. 

    The primary goals of the center are to help individuals and families foster healthy lifestyles. Some workshops will cover topics such as dealing with stress, depression and anxiety; coping with peer pressure; understanding the dangers of drug abuse; knowing the signs of drug use; mental health first aid and more. For individuals in sustained recovery, classes and workshops will offer support in health and wellbeing, such as recovery yoga and meditation, effective communication at home, exploring core values and beliefs, job skills and art and music therapy.

    “Easing reintegration with families, the work environment and the community will reduce the prevalence of relapse among individuals in recovery, a population that is currently largely underserved,” said Toni Knoll, Executive Director of Programming and Operations. “When an individual is affected by substance use disorder, the whole family is affected – it has widespread impact on the individual’s whole support system. This center will provide a confidential and non-judgmental location for anyone in the community to ask for information, seek advice and resources, and feel supported and equipped to face the challenges that this epidemic has posed. I hope we see young families visit looking for advice on the dangers their children might one day face, young adults seeking volunteer opportunities and individuals in post-acute care recovery who would like to enjoy a friendly and supportive environment.”

    So, come on in, grab a coffee, curl up on the sofa and make yourself at home. We can’t wait to meet you!

    For more information programming, hours of operation and directions, visit www.communityincrisis.org or email info@communityincrisis.org.

  • Happy Holidays!

    Posted 12/20/2017 by Angelo M. Valente

    On behalf of all of us at the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, I wish you and your loved ones a very happy holiday season.

    As the year comes to a close and many families are fortunate to spend this quality time together, we must continue to combat substance misuse and addiction to help better the lives of families throughout New Jersey and the nation. 

  • Students Can Use Winter Break to Work on Original Prevention Songs

    Posted 12/13/2017 by Angelo M. Valente

    The holiday season is upon us, and students throughout New Jersey soon will be able to enjoy a relaxing and well-deserved break before the start of the New Year.

    The winter break presents a great opportunity for high school students to get together with their friends and work on their song for the 2018 New Jersey Shout Down Drugs music competition.

    In its 14th year, the contest encourages high school students to create songs with original music and lyrics that contain a strong peer-to-peer prevention message. Whether the song is R&B, rock, jazz, hip hop or soul, the goal is to spread a positive message about avoiding substance use.

    There have been so many songs in the past 13 years that have displayed not only the creativity and musical talent of high school students, but also their determination to make a difference in the lives of their peers by using their talent to spread such important messages.

    To enter the 2018 contest, all songs must be submitted by February 1. Click here for contest information, rules and entry forms.

    After the songs are entered, independent panels of judges will select county finalists to perform in the statewide Prevention Concert, which will be held Friday, April 27 at the Daytop New Jersey Auditorium in Mendham.

    There also will be two periods of online voting. Following the first, from February 16 to March 2, the top vote-getter will earn an automatic spot in the Prevention Concert. During the second voting period, from March 5 through April 26, participants can choose from their favorite finalists and the online tallies will be factored into each performer’s final score the night of the concert.

    The concert first-place winner will receive a $5,000 music contract, second place will earn a $3,000 contract, and third place will take home a $2,000 contract.

    I am excited for what 2018 will bring for New Jersey Shout Down Drugs, and I hope this state’s talented high school students will use their approaching time off to get started or continue to work on what might be the program’s next hit song. 

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