• 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 or email

  • 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. 

  • State Senator Joseph Vitale to Speak at Final Town Hall of 2017

    Posted 12/7/2017 by Angelo M. Valente

    The Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series has helped to encourage great dialogue about the ongoing opioid epidemic in counties throughout the state this year.


    Organized by Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, and partners at the local level the town hall series has drawn thousands of state residents and spread vital information on the risks of prescription opioids and their link to heroin use.


    The series will be making its final stop of the year this Tuesday, December 12th, in Middlesex County where State Senator Joseph Vitale (D – Middlesex) will be part of an expert panel discussing the issue.


    Senator Vitale, who serves as Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, will provide an in-depth look into the crisis from a state legislative perspective. This event represents a tremendous opportunity for all New Jersey residents to better understand what actions are being taken in Trenton to combat this crisis.


    Don’t miss your chance to join the conversation for the final time this year on this critical issue from 7-9 p.m. on Tuesday at the Jo Ann Magistro Performing Arts Center at Hammarskjold Middle School in East Brunswick. Visit for more information and to register.


    The discussion will be moderated by Bert Baron of 1450 WCTC and will also include the following panelists:

    • Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey
    • Vanessa Vitolo, Outreach Coordinator, Victory Bay Recovery Center
    • Bonnie Nolan, PhD., Addiction Services Coordinator, Woodbridge Township
    • Shuvendu Sen, MD, FACP, Director, Medical Student Education Raritan Bay Medical Center, Meridian Health
    • Mara Carlin, CPS - Wellspring Center for Prevention

  • Prevention Still the Key to Reversing Opioid Crisis

    Posted 11/30/2017 by Angelo M. Valente

    December is almost here, and with it 2017 begins to wind down. This year has presented many challenges but also great progress in the fight against the opioid epidemic ravaging New Jersey and the United States.


    The launching of the Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series with the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey has helped to spread important dialogue about the opioid epidemic to counties throughout the state.


    The continuation of the Do No Harm Symposium Series, co-sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration – New Jersey Division and the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, has brought the message of safer prescribing practices to doctors and dentists.


    However, more steps need to be taken to address the disease of addiction and its horrific effects. A recent study conducted by the Trust for America’s Health and the Well Being Trust projected that the rate of drug- and alcohol-related deaths and suicides in New Jersey could increase significantly in the next several years if proper action is not taken.


    The state’s death rate for these three causes, which measured at 30.5 per 100,000 people in 2015, could rise to 44.4 per 100,000 by 2025.


    The report suggests a strategy with greater emphasis on prevention to avoid the possible rise in death rate. New Jersey residents will have opportunities to engage in prevention-focused events as the year winds down.

  • Happy Thanksgiving

    Posted 11/22/2017 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 Happy Thanksgiving.

    Tomorrow, millions of families around the country will enjoy quality time with their loved ones on Thanksgiving. As we count our blessings, let us not forget those who have lost their lives to the disease of addiction or those who are currently battling it. 

    We are thankful for the efforts being made to address the opioid epidemic and all forms of addiction, and we are hopeful that more can be done to saves lives of those currently fighting this terrible disease.

    New Jersey will support and remember people who have battled addiction at 5 p.m. Wednesday, December 6th in Trenton where Governor Christie will hold a 2nd Annual Candlelight Vigil. The event will support the people, families, and loved ones impacted by substance use issues and honor the lives taken by addiction.

    This call to action for eliminating the stigma surrounding this disease will gather the statewide recovery community and the loved ones of those affected to bring addiction out of the shadows and into the light.

    Because the fight against the opioid epidemic and other forms of addiction will take a comprehensive community effort, the governor has asked all residents to be a part of ending stigmas while lighting a candle for loved ones and helping bring addiction out of the shadows and into the light.

    Help spread the word about the vigil by sharing this event with others using #IllBeThereWillYou on social media and visiting

  • New Jersey to Sue Manufacturer of OxyContin

    Posted 11/1/2017 by Angelo M. Valente

    Over the past decade, the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey has been at the forefront of alerting both the public and the medical community about the inherent risks of dependency associated with opioids prescribed for acute and long-term pain.

    The Partnership was particularly concerned with opioids being safely prescribed to children, because a young person’s brain is still developing well into their early 20s and many believe adding opioids to a developing brain increases the potential for addiction.

    As a result of current legal actions, the public and the medical community hopefully will become better informed of the limited and appropriate usages of these medications, as well as the real potential for addiction that these drugs pose.

    The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey began its Do No Harm Symposium Series in 2013 to start a dialogue with doctors and dentists on appropriate and safe measures to take when prescribing opioids.

    While this information is no consolation for hundreds of thousands of families that currently are dealing with a loved one who is suffering from the disease of addiction, we are hopeful that as new information is revealed about the potential for dependency and addiction to prescribed opioids, millions of Americans will be spared from the horrific consequences of the opioid epidemic.

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