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  • DEA Fights Opioid Crisis in New Jersey Through 360 Strategy

    Posted 8/15/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    This week, I welcome Special Agent Timothy McMahon of the Drug Enforcement Administration – New Jersey Division to the blog to discuss DEA 360 Strategy.

     

    This program has aimed to address the opioid epidemic in cities throughout the country by making an impact at the local level. DEA 360 has been launched in multiple New Jersey locations and applies a comprehensive approach for fighting this urgent crisis.

     

    By Special Agent Timothy McMahon

    The Drug Enforcement Administration has responded to the current heroin and prescription opioid pill crisis with the deployment of DEA’s 360 Strategy. Since 2016 DEA Headquarters has selected several cities a year to initiate the 360 Strategy. In 2018, the southern New Jersey region and Newark have been selected. DEA 360 in southern New Jersey started in January and Newark in June. The 360 Strategy takes an innovative three-pronged approach to fighting drug trafficking and stemming abuse:

     

    • Enforcement – This aspect of the strategy involves keeping drugs out of the community by reducing the drug supply and holding those accountable who are distributing drugs to those struggling with addiction, while also coordinating efforts against drug traffickers and those committing violent crime in our communities.

    • Diversion Control  - This part of the plan holds those accountable within the medical community who are overprescribing and operating outside the scope of practice and law. This process requires long-term engagement with pharmaceutical drug manufacturers, wholesalers, pharmacies and practitioners.

    • Community Outreach  - Pursuing a robust prevention and outreach effort at the community level is vital to addressing this epidemic. By partnering with grassroots initiatives and coalitions as well as with corporate and faith-based partners, medical professionals, government and community organizations, we plan to proactively promote and establish sustainable programs to address the current crisis of heroin/opioid drug overdoses in our communities.

  • New Jersey High Schools Now Required to Carry Naloxone

    Posted 8/8/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    In June, the New Jersey State Legislature passed a law that will require high schools to maintain a supply of the opioid antidote, naloxone.

     

    This is a positive step in fighting the opioid crisis, both in preparing schools to prevent a tragedy and by acknowledging an understanding of the widespread devastation the opioid epidemic has caused, especially among our state’s youth.

     

    The law will require high schools to carry naloxone and make it accessible during school hours and school functions, develop a policy for administering the antidote, and allow the school nurse and other trained employees to use the antidote in the event of an overdose.

     

    The thought of high school students overdosing at school is unthinkable, and one that many parents and communities might not be willing to accept as a viable threat, but the reality is that no community is immune to the opioid crisis. Overdoses have occurred in many public venues in recent years, including several at schools throughout the nation.

     

    By having naloxone on the premises and a school nurse or other faculty member trained to administer it, there is a greater chance that lives can be saved and that these students could go on to receive the treatment and help they need.

  • Guest Blog: NJ Family and Patient Notification Law Featured in Full Frame Episode

    Posted 8/1/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    This week, I turn the blog over to New Jersey resident Don Riebel, whose son, Colin, died of a heroin overdose at age 22 in 2013. Don and his wife, Bobbie Lynn are featured, along with Dr. Andrew Kolodny, in an episode of Full Frame Close Up: Prescribing Pain, that was released by CGTN America this week talking about Colin’s story and the New Jersey legislation that they believe could have saved their son’s life.

     

    Colin first became addicted to prescription opioids after suffering multiple sports injuries in high school and undergoing surgeries on his shoulder and knees. Four years after Colin’s death, in February 2017, New Jersey passed A3/S3 that requires prescribers to inform patients or patients’ parents and guardians about the addictive qualities of the opioids they are prescribed and possible alternative treatments that exist before prescribing. I encourage you to view Full Frame Close Up: Prescribing Pain and this powerful first-hand account.

     

    By Don Riebel

    On Nov. 23, 2013, I found my son in his bed not breathing. I immediately began giving him CPR until the paramedics arrived only to be told that they could not revive him. He was gone.

     

    Until that fateful day, Colin had refrained from drug use for two months after being released from rehab 48 hours prior. Since age 15, Colin a former community/high school athlete struggled with opioid addiction. His love of sports would play the starring role in his untimely death.

     

    Colin blew his rotator cuff playing baseball his freshmen year in high school, which resulted in surgery and a recuperation period that included a regimen of Percocet. During his sophomore year in high school, Colin participated in the sport he loved the most: football. In a span of three years, he tore his ACL three times, and each injury required surgery, bone grafting, physical therapy and pain management.

     

    Pain management was a continuous regimen of Percocet. It wasn't until Colin came to us and admitted to having a problem that we realized he needed help. His desire for that euphoric effect outweighed his love of sports and slowly began to take control of his everyday life.

     

    The signs were not there in the beginning. Colin didn't lose his charming demeanor, sense of humor and overall kindness for which he was known. It was first recommended to us that Colin would need outpatient rehab, which he consistently attended for about six months. Outpatient rehab turned into inpatient rehab, and after several attempts at remaining abstinent — along with more stints in rehab — his opioid addiction eventuality transitioned into heroin use. From there, he entered a downward spiral that no one saw coming.

     

    Heroin took my son’s life at age 22. It took his dreams and our dreams that one day he would be in recovery and able to tell his story in his own words. This epidemic has stolen too many lives and has forced parents to bury their children. A child’s death is life out of order.

     

    Addiction affects the whole family and through that experience our intent is help educate parents so no other parent feels this pain. If only I, as a parent, had known the dangers, the outcome would have certainly been much different. We have the responsibility to advocate for our children by making sure that we are present and participating in our child’s medical treatment. Ask questions and, most importantly, question your provider about prescriptions and whether or not they can become addictive. Just do not accept that the only way to effectively manage your child’s pain is through these types of drugs. Ask for alternatives.

  • Don’t Get Hooked on Drugs Fishing Tournament Begins Friday

    Posted 7/25/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    Summer vacation is about halfway done, but there’s still plenty of time for families to create some fantastic memories and no better way to do it than by participating in the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey’s fourth annual Don’t Get Hooked on Drugs Online NJ Family Fishing Tournament.

     

    The contest, which will begin Friday, July 27, and run through August 5, requires parents and guardians to submit photos of their children fishing as a way to encourage more family bonding and conversation. Children who communicate regularly with their parents about their daily activities are 67 percent less likely to be involved in substance use than children who have little or no communication, according to research conducted by the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey.

     

    To participate in the contest, entrants must be 18 years old or younger, New Jersey residents, and be accompanied by a parent or guardian while fishing. Participants then have to snap a photo of their family enjoying a fishing trip and post it with the hashtag #drugfreenj on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. The photo must include the youth participant and a parent or guardian. Winners will be selected at random on August 7 to receive up to $600 in cash prizes.

     

    Pictures can be posted by liking PDFNJ’s Facebook page at PartnershipForADrugFreeNewJersey or by following PDFNJ on Twitter (@drugfreenj) and Instagram (@drugfreenj).

     

    This is one of the most exciting events for PDFNJ and a reminder that prevention starts at home. Take advantage of the warm weather and head to the nearest lake, river or ocean to share a memorable family moment.

     

    Also, it is important to stay educated on the opioid epidemic and other issues that can impact your children. Please tune in to NJTV at 7 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. Monday, July 30, or Thirteen/WNET at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, July 31, to watch me discuss the opioid crisis on “One-on-One with Steve Adubato.” 

  • Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey Reports Decreases in Opioid Prescriptions

    Posted 7/18/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    The opioid epidemic continues to claim the lives of New Jersey residents at a tragic rate, but there are signs of improvement in addressing the crisis that could result in many lives being saved in the coming years.

     

    Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, the state’s largest health insurance carrier, reported a 30 percent decrease in the total number of opioid prescriptions filled for commercial policy holders from 2013 to 2017. Horizon also saw significant decreases for Medicare clients (14 percent) and Medicaid clients (20 percent) during that time.

     

    The number of Horizon commercial members who filled at least one opioid prescription dropped from 18 percent in 2013 to 13 percent in 2017, a 28 percent decrease.

     

    Horizon also reported that 62 percent of people taking opioids used them for seven days or fewer, up 7 percent from 2013. Reducing the length of use of opioids is vitally important, because people who use opioids for eight days or more are 13.5 percent more likely to be addicted a year later, according to a CDC study.

     

    All of these stats point to one conclusion: New Jersey residents as a whole are being exposed to fewer opioids and for shorter periods of time. Decreasing the usage of prescription opioids will help prevent more people from developing an addiction in the future.

     

    In 2017, the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey along with Horizon Foundation for New Jersey launched a series of town halls to educate New Jersey residents on the opioid crisis. The award-winning Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series featuring town halls for all 21 counties in the state brought together more than 13,000 New Jersey residents in every county and provided them with a comprehensive understanding of the causes and effects of the opioid epidemic. The events included participation from county prosecutors, state legislators, doctors and professionals from the prevention, treatment and recovery fields.

     

    We are proud to partner with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey in addressing the opioid epidemic in this state and look forward to our continued collaborations and successes.

  • Data: Legalization of Marijuana Linked to Increased Youth Exposure to Drug

    Posted 7/11/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    As New Jersey lawmakers discuss the legalization of marijuana, it is important to evaluate the impact on the residents of states that have legalized marijuana.

     

    New data released in Washington State shows that legalization there has led to a large increase in the number of youth marijuana poisonings.

     

    In 2017, the number of incidents reported to the Washington State Poison Center increased by nearly 30 percent to an all-time high of 378. Reporting these incidents is voluntary, and the data likely underrepresents the true total throughout the state.

     

    Almost one-third of the total exposures reported to the poison center last year were for children ages 5 or younger. Exposure within that age group increased by nearly 58 percent from 2016.

     

    Part of the reason for this increase has been the emergence of THC edibles, such as gummies and cookies, being sold since the legalization and commercialization of marijuana. Marijuana edibles were involved in nearly half of the reported exposure that occurred in 2017.

     

    While marijuana possession is still illegal for people younger than 21 in states that have legalized marijuana, it is clear that legalization has made it more likely for children to access the drug. It is crucial that New Jersey leaders take into consideration how marijuana is impacting other states and how it would impact New Jersey residents, young and old alike.   

  • Stay Safe This Summer

    Posted 7/4/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    On behalf of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, I hope you enjoyed a safe and fun Fourth of July. With summer finally here, it’s exciting to think about all the upcoming opportunities for fun moments and memories.

     

    However, for many people, summer also includes an increase in the number of social events that involve alcohol. It is vital that adults take the proper steps to ensure that drinking doesn’t lead to tragedy. These precautions include designating a driver or simply choosing not to drink.

     

    In 2016, the most recent year with complete data, drunk driving caused 10,497 fatalities on roads in the United States, an increase of 1.7 percent from the previous year.

     

    Water activities that are popular during the summer become much more dangerous when alcohol is involved. Research shows that up to 70 percent of all water recreation deaths of teens and adults involve the use of alcohol.

     

    In 2016, alcohol use was the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. In instances where the primary cause of an accident was known, alcohol was listed as the leading factor in 15 percent of deaths.

     

    These deaths were entirely preventable, yet they devastated the lives of countless friends and family members across the country. Don’t let tragedy be a part of your summer. Have fun, be responsible and stay safe.

  • Study: Reducing Opioid Dosages Not Linked to Lower Patient Satisfaction

    Posted 6/27/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    For years, medical professionals have overprescribed opioids to treat chronic and acute pain. One of the many reasons for this was that doctors and other prescribers feared negative feedback and evaluations from their patients if they did not alleviate their pain.

     

    However, a recent study has found that patient satisfaction scores did not drop significantly for physicians when they reduced opioid dosages.

     

    The study, conducted by researchers from Kaiser Permanente, tracked patient encounters with 2,491 chronic-pain patients in Southern California prescribed high doses of opioids for at least six consecutive months from 2009 to 2014.

     

    In cases in which doctors reduced opioid dosages, patients remained satisfied with their doctors more than 86 percent of the time.

     

    This is certainly a promising development for prescribers. For years, the threat or fear of negative patient feedback served as a deterrent to finding more effective and safe treatment avenues for pain that would minimize the risk of opioid dependency.

     

    The medical community will play a major role in overcoming the opioid crisis, and studies such as this one provide evidence that responsible prescribing practices are vital to stemming the tide of this epidemic.

  • Study: Exposure to Marijuana Ads Linked to Increased Youth Marijuana Use

    Posted 6/20/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    While New Jersey’s lawmakers are weighing important decisions on marijuana, it’s vital to remember that there’s nothing more important in this debate than the health and safety of our children and how changes in laws could affect our future.

     

    A study recently completed and published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that exposure to medical marijuana advertising could lead to increased use of marijuana by youth.

     

    The study, which recruited Southern California students an average age of 13 years old from 2010 to 2017, asked participants if they had seen medical marijuana advertising, if they intended to use marijuana in the next six months, how many days they had used it in the previous month and how often they had experienced negative consequences of using marijuana during the past year.

     

    Adolescents who reported that they had greater exposure to marijuana advertisements were more likely to report having used marijuana in the last month and were more likely to report that they expected to use marijuana during the next six months, according to the study.

     

    These findings are troubling, especially considering the negative short-term and long-term effects it can have on teenagers’ undeveloped brains. Authors of the study stressed the importance of educating children on the effects of marijuana use and also suggested tightening regulations for marijuana advertising, similar to those in place on tobacco and alcohol.

     

    As New Jersey leaders continue to debate potentially increasing legal access to marijuana, it is critical that those leading the conversation place children’s health as the top priority.

  • PDFNJ Wins Five Jersey Awards, Highlights Do No Harm at Opioid Conference

    Posted 6/13/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    The past week has included several honors for the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey.

     

    Last Wednesday, we received five awards at the NJ Ad Club’s 50th Annual Jersey Awards. The Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series was the big winner, taking home first place in the Not for Profit/Pro Bono Work sub-category as well as the trophy for Best of Public Relations, awarded to the top winner from the entire category.

     

    The town hall series, supported by a grant from The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, began in April 2017 and was hosted for audiences from every county in the state. More than 13,600 people participated either in person or online via live stream at the town halls, which provided New Jersey residents with a comprehensive understanding of the causes and effects of the opioid epidemic.

     

    The series made a positive impact in educating the public about the dangers of opioids and helped organizers to develop a better understanding of how the opioid crisis has impacted different communities throughout the state. It was an exciting honor for the NJ Ad Club to recognize those efforts with two awards.

     

    PDFNJ also received first-place awards in the Public Relations: Advocacy/Political Multimedia Campaign category for the second annual Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day; the Out of Home: Transit Shelter category for the “Before They Prescribe, You Decide” campaign; and the Music: Original Music Competition/Non-Jingle for Commercial category for the song “Invisible,” written and performed by Anna Toby Rabinowitz and Anna Zibit as part of the 2017 Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day Songwriters Contest organized by LIFE Center Stage and the Community Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Morris.

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