Blog

  • National Summit Aims for Solutions to Opioid Crisis

    Posted 4/4/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    This week, I am honored to attend the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit in Atlanta along with PDFNJ Director of Media, Marketing & Community Relations Angela Conover.

     

    Thousands of people from 48 states and Washington, D.C., as well as several other countries, are in attendance at this year’s conference, which provides organizations from around the country a forum to evaluate what prevention and treatment programs are working in the fight against the opioid crisis.

     

    We already have heard presentations from members of Congress and leaders of federal agencies who have outlined what must be done to address this epidemic that claimed more than 42,000 lives in the United States in 2016. Former President Bill Clinton will be speaking about the opioid crisis this evening.

     

    Unfortunately, the number of opioid deaths has continued to rise. In New Jersey, there were already 765 suspected drug overdose deaths in 2018 as of April 1, according to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office. At that pace, the number of overdose deaths would exceed 3,000 for the year, far exceeding the totals for 2016 and 2017.

     

    A lot of work must be done to reduce these tragic statistics. It’s encouraging to see people and organizations from throughout the country united to work toward solutions to this problem, and I am hopeful that the momentum created here will result in renewed efforts to expand prevention and treatment opportunities throughout the country.

  • Nearly 1 in 3 Young Adults Ride with Impaired Drivers

    Posted 3/28/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    While the opioid crisis has been dominating headlines, another prominent cause of accidental deaths continues to ravage the nation: impaired driving.

     

    A recent report found that 33 percent of young adults have been in a vehicle with a driver impaired by drugs or alcohol over the past year. That means one in three of those young adults have needlessly put their lives at risk during that time.

     

    In 2016, alcohol-impaired driving alone caused more than 10,000 deaths in the United States, and people driving while under the influence of drugs is growing problem. In 2015, drivers tested positive for a drug other than alcohol in 16 percent of motor vehicle crashes.

     

    The study found that the risk of riding with an impaired driver was higher when young adults were with their peers rather than an older adult. Other research has shown that young adults who ride with impaired drivers are more likely to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol themselves.

     

    This data suggests that peer influence plays a major role in young adults making dangerous decisions. Therefore, it’s important for parents to educate their children not only on the direct health risks associated with drugs and alcohol but also the consequences of driving while impaired.

     

    First, make sure to discuss with your children the dangers of drugs and alcohol and take other measures to prevent them from engaging in substance use. It’s also vital to teach them what to do if they are with friends who are using drugs and alcohol and prepare them to take steps to prevent anyone from driving while impaired.

     

    With April 1 only days away, Alcohol Awareness Month is a good opportunity to share this information with your friends and family. The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey can help educate your community on drugs and alcohol and has a limited number of dates available in April for to host 15 Minute Child Breaks to discuss how to talk with your children about substance use.

     

    Finally, I would like to wish you all a healthy and safe holiday weekend.

  • President Trump Outlines Plan for Ending Opioid Crisis

    Posted 3/21/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    This week, President Trump spoke in New Hampshire to address the opioid crisis, which claimed more than 42,000 lives in 2016.

     

    The president’s proposal for harsher punishments for drug dealers received a majority of media attention in recent days, but it is important to realize that law enforcement is just one part of addressing this crisis. Appropriate law enforcement measures must be coupled with effective prevention messages and access to treatment in order to stem this epidemic.

     

    As the president mentioned, media campaigns can be an effective tool in educating the public about substance use and addiction. It is vital that these messages use evidence-based approaches that urge the public to take actions, such as securing medicine cabinets and disposing of unused medications; asking prescribers about the risks of prescription opioids; or speaking with children about the dangers of substance use.

     

    The president’s plan also includes increased access to medication-assisted treatment, which has been an important option for many people suffering from addiction. Making this form of treatment more available is vital to battling the opioid crisis.

     

    Meanwhile, Congress has begun to examine ways to end the epidemic and has set aside $6 billion in funding to address the issue.

     

    I am hopeful that the renewed attention to this issue from the federal government will lead to breakthroughs in prevention, treatment and recovery. We all need to keep members of Congress informed on the importance of a balanced approach, including prevention, treatment and law enforcement if we are truly going to end the opioid epidemic.

  • Study: Opioids No More Effective than Common Painkillers at Treating Pain

    Posted 3/14/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    Overprescribing and misuse of prescription opioids have helped to fuel the current epidemic in New Jersey and around the country, which claimed more than 1,900 lives in New Jersey and more than 50,000 nationwide in 2016.

     

    The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey has supported efforts to curb overprescribing, including new legislation passed in New Jersey last year that requires prescribers to discuss the addictive nature of opioids as well as possible non-opioid alternatives to address acute and chronic pain.

     

    Using alternatives to opioids can eliminate or lessen the potential for addiction, and in many cases can result in more effective treatment.  

     

    A government study released last week supported that case, finding that opioids were no more effective than common painkillers, like acetaminophen, in treating patients with chronic back pain and arthritis.

     

    The year-long study found that opioids did not prove more effective in improving pain related to daily functions and were less effective at alleviating pain intensity. Patients on opioids also reported more side effects.

     

    This study provides further proof that opioids are an effective option in some cases. However, they may not be the only answer in addressing both acute and chronic pain in patients.

     

    The opioid crisis is not slowing down, as indicated in a CDC report last week stating that emergency room visits for opioid overdoses increased 30 percent from 2016 to 2017. It is imperative that New Jersey residents become educated on the risks associated with prescription opioids and realize that there may be safer options available to help treat pain.

  • Funding a Good Start to Address Opioid Epidemic

    Posted 3/8/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    Last Friday, I had the honor to join Senator Bob Menendez for a press conference in Elizabeth to discuss the importance of $6 billion in federal funding that will be used to address the opioid crisis.


    In 2016, more than 2,200 people in New Jersey died from a drug overdose, about 1,900 of which were opioid-related. That means that every day, five new families in New Jersey grieved the loss of a son or daughter, a mother or father, a brother or sister.


    As the crisis has worsened in the past few years, there has been a consistent cry for help for funding to provide treatment, recovery support and prevention to keep other families from experiencing the same tragedies that too many have already endured throughout the country.


    Thanks to the efforts of Senator Menendez and his colleagues in Washington, this appropriation of funds is a positive step to face the opioid epidemic head-on.


    Education will continue to play an important role in preventing further substance use and addiction. The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey will do its part by continuing the Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series in collaboration with The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey.


    Upcoming town halls are scheduled in Cape May County (April 19), Hudson County (April 24), Passaic County (May 3), Hunterdon County (May 9) and Mercer County (May 23). Residents in each of these counties are encouraged to join the conversation on the opioid crisis to gain a better understanding of the dangers of prescription opioids and their link to the use of heroin.

  • Family Breakfast Brings Together Partners in the Fight Against Addiction

    Posted 2/28/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    This morning, the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey had the pleasure of hosting the Third Annual Breakfast for Families and Communities Impacted by Opioid Abuse at Aloft Mount Laurel Hotel.

     

    The breakfast drew a great crowd of New Jersey residents directly affected by the opioid crisis and united advocates from several fields involved in the fight to end the epidemic. Events such as these are vital to both showing support to those who have been impacted by the disease of addiction and working together to develop solutions to the current crisis afflicting New Jersey and the nation.

     

    Only when we come together can we begin to explore solutions to this issue.

     

    I am so grateful to the partners of PDFNJ that participated in the program, including Special Agent Tim McMahon of the Drug Enforcement Administration – New Jersey Division and Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina, who provided a law enforcement overview of the epidemic, as well as Michael Schwartz, and President of Health Solutions Network, who spoke about the role of scientific advancements in stemming the crisis.

     

    Recovery advocates Vanessa Vitolo of Victory Bay Recovery Center, Mariel Hufnagel of the Ammon Foundation, Colleen Howard of Parent-To-Parent, Donna DeStefano of PICK Awareness and Suzanne Harrison of King’s Crusade also addressed the audience. These speakers exemplified the courage it takes to overcome addiction or to have a loved one battling the disease, and their willingness to speak out about their experiences is invaluable to reducing the stigma of addiction and helping others.

     

    I also would like to thank collaborators of the event: Parent-To-Parent, King’s Crusade, Victory Bay Recovery Center, Burlington County Commission for Healthy Communities and the Community Alliance Network of Camden County. It’s an honor and privilege to partner with organizations so committed to combatting the opioid epidemic.

  • Exciting PDFNJ Updates

    Posted 2/23/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    This is a busy week for the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey. First, I was featured in a CBS 2 news story, in which I once again discuss the opioid crisis. You can watch the full story HERE.

    Meanwhile, the Partnership’s annual music competition New Jersey Shout Down Drugs, is in full swing after online voting for this year’s contestants began last Friday.

     

    The competition is unique in the way it promotes substance use prevention throughout the state.

     

    High school students write original songs with lyrics that contain peer-to-peer substance use prevention messages. Music is a great form of expression, which gives participants not only a chance to display their musical talents, but also to reach fellow teenagers with messages that promote healthy living, free of the use of drugs.

     

    This year, 57 students comprising 32 musical acts from 14 counties entered the competition. Each and every one of the 32 performers put a tremendous amount of thought and creativity into their songs, so now it’s your turn to help Shout Down Drugs.

     

    The competitors and their prevention songs were unveiled on www.shoutdowndrugs.com on Friday for the start of the online voting period, which will run through March 2. The highest vote-getter during that period will earn an automatic spot and join the county finalists at the 14th annual Prevention Concert, which will be held Friday, April 27 at Daytop New Jersey in Mendham. Tickets are FREE and available HERE.

     

    We know these students’ messages about substance abuse prevention can make an impact on the epidemic New Jersey currently faces regarding prescription opioid and heroin use. I urge you not only to check out the work of this year’s competitors and vote for the songs you like best, but also to listen to the songs and think about the prevention messages they convey.

  • 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. 

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