• You Too Can Be Part of Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day in Our State

    Posted 10/3/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    The Opioid epidemic is continuing to devastate our state. So far this year, there have been more than 2,000 overdoses and naloxone has been administered over 9,000 times.


    This epidemic is at crisis levels and we all have been impacted one way or another – either in our families, through our friends or in our communities. We all can also all try to be part of the solution to address this crisis, and one significant way to do that is to raise awareness.


    Not only about the facts of the epidemic, but also about the face of it –so that we can remove the barrier of stigma that prevents so many from seeking help for their addiction, for recognizing the signs and symptoms or dependency and addiction, or from educating our youth about the dangers of prescribed opioids, heroin or fentanyl because we don’t think we can be impacted because of our background or zip code.


    The 3rd Annual Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day is this Saturday, October 6th. This day of awareness and education is an opportunity we all can be a part of, and whether it is leaving a printed message with our neighbors or co-workers, sharing a #KnockOutOpioidAbuse social media post, asking your faith leader to incorporate a message into a sermon or newsletter, or connecting with your community or county leader to be a part of planned events in your community. Participants have continued to share messages with their local law enforcement or through their municipal or school athletic events, sometimes on October 6th and sometimes throughout the entire month of October. Others have visited or spoken to their local doctors and dentists about safer prescribing strategies, and shared information and educational resources with them.

  • Help Share Lifesaving Information by Volunteering on Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day

    Posted 9/27/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    The statewide opioid epidemic continues to take its toll on New Jersey residents.


    So far in 2018, more than 2,000 people in New Jersey have died of drug overdoses, a vast majority of which have been opioid-related. Meanwhile, through the end of July, law enforcement and emergency medical personnel had administered naloxone more than 9,000 times throughout the state.


    While advances have been made in the fight against this crisis, there is still work to be done to help protect the health and safety of families and communities around New Jersey.


    You can take action on Saturday, October 6, by volunteering for the third annual Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day. The day has a dual focus of educating residents on the risks of prescription opioids and their link to heroin, as well as informing medical providers on responsible prescribing.


    Last year, more than 10,000 volunteers participated in the event, distributing vital information on safe prescribing practices to healthcare providers, as well door hangers and other materials to residents in neighborhoods throughout New Jersey. Volunteers also organized events, such as songwriting contests, candlelight vigils and charity walks to spread messages of prevention and recovery.


    Volunteers from all over the state once again have organized major outreach efforts for this year’s event. For example, in Morris County, organizations are holding the Knock Out Opioid Abuse Songwriters Scholarship Concert, while high schools in several of the state’s 21 counties are bringing outreach efforts to their athletic contests the weeks leading up to and following Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day.


    There are several ways you can get involved as a volunteer. They include distributing door hangers around your neighborhood, among members of your congregation or to your colleagues at work. You can also check in with local businesses, police departments, youth organizations or local volunteer groups to see if they would be willing to help spread information and awareness on the opioid epidemic. While the official day is Saturday, October 6, if there is a more convenient day for you to share this important lifesaving message, please do so then.


    Help us to Knock Out Opioid Abuse in New Jersey by signing up to volunteer. Once you do, the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey team can help put you in touch with a county/community coordinator to receive materials.


    The opioid crisis has impacted all of us, but by working together to educate our fellow New Jersey residents, we can work toward solutions necessary to end this epidemic.

  • Housing a Major Element of Recovery

    Posted 9/19/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    As National Recovery Month winds down, it is important to recognize that recovery housing is a key component to helping those in recovery overcome their addiction. Recovery housing allows people struggling with addiction to experience comfort and stability as they walk along the path to recovery.


    For this week’s blog, I welcome Antonia Maria Montalvo, founder of the Antonia Maria Foundation, an organization that provides temporary housing and life skills training for women as they move from dependent, often abusive or substance-dependent relationships to strong women of recovery.


    By Antonia Maria Montalvo

    On Saturday, September 29, the Antonia Maria Foundation will be hosting a special event to celebrate National Recovery Month from 3-8 p.m. at Babbage Park in North Brunswick. I am the founder of the Antonia Maria Foundation, and have struggled with substance abuse, as well as the tragic loss of my cousin Leo Milito from a drug overdose. My most recent recovery, in California with a focus on spirituality, is the one that brought me out of the darkness.


    Now I have made it my mission to help women who are at-risk find their own path to recovery. I also serve as the executive director of Gracie’s House, which provides sober living-structured temporary housing and a multitude of support services for women in North Brunswick. Gracie’s House and the Antonia Maria Foundation’s purpose is to honor those who are in recovery and to help women find their own sense of power and energy in the healing process.


    Antonia Maria Foundation offers women the opportunity to clear out emotional stress and past traumas through such disciplines as meditation, Reiki, yoga, spiritual and intuitive healing, weekly workshops and support groups as well as developing and or enhancing life skills and a host of other resources.

  • Celebrate National Recovery Month at Liberty State Park

    Posted 9/12/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    The disease of addiction has negatively affected the lives of so many Americans. Hundreds of thousands of people have died from overdoses in just the past few years alone, while millions of others still struggle with a substance use disorder that takes a physical mental and emotional toll on themselves as well as their loved ones.


    Because addiction is such a difficult disease to battle and ultimately overcome, it is important to take time to reflect on the successes of those who are in recovery from addiction, especially during National Recovery Month, which PDFNJ discussed with News 12 New Jersey earlier in September. There will be several recovery events in the state throughout the month, including the Morris County Recovery Walk organized by Freedom House on September 22.


    This week, I turn over the blog to Lisa Gladwell, Chair of New Jersey Recovery Advocates, which will be holding its New Jersey Recovery Walk/Rally at Liberty State Park. The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey has participated in this wonderful event during past years, and I encourage New Jersey residents to attend a recovery walk near you and to appreciate that recovery from addiction is possible.


    By Lisa Gladwell


    September is National Recovery Month, and New Jersey is certainly not missing out on the celebrations. This year marks the fifth year of the New Jersey Recovery Walk/Rally being held Saturday, September 15 at Liberty State Park in honor of those who are in recovery from addiction and those who still struggle along with their families and the community. This year’s theme is “Brand New Endings!” 


    It is no secret that addiction is now an epidemic and a national emergency, as declared by the White House. The opioid crisis, especially, has infiltrated many homes, our youth and those with chronic pain. We dare to say that no family today is excluded from the disease of addiction and it is time to fight back! Five years ago it was estimated that 1 in 10 people suffer. In 2018, that number only continues to increase with data showing that more than 3,000 people will most likely die from an overdose in 2018 in New Jersey alone.


  • School and Prevention Education Are Back in Session

    Posted 9/5/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    It’s hard to believe that summer has once again flown by, but it’s exciting to think about the new opportunities and special moments that lie ahead in the upcoming school year.


    Students will be learning new things, making new friends and continuing to grow, and it’s important that their education includes prevention and living a healthy lifestyle free of drugs.


    A recent study found that teenagers who smoke and drink have visible damage to their arteries by the age of 17. That is just one of the many physical and emotional effects of drug and alcohol use on youth, making it crucial that children are equipped with this prevention education from an early age.


    The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey offers several programs that can help.


    PDFNJ is currently inviting fourth grade students to submit artwork for the 2018-19 Fun Things To Do Instead of Drugs Folder contest. Several thousand students entered last year’s Fourth Grade Folder Contest, submitting artistic prevention messages that displayed their creativity. The two winners chosen this past spring will have their work displayed on folders being distributed to fourth grade classes throughout the state for the 2018-19 school year. A limited number of folders are still available. Click HERE to request folders for your students.


    PDFNJ offers another program for younger students, the Third Grade Contract for a Healthy Life. These activity books stress the importance of drug-free and healthy living. To request activity books for your students, click HERE.


    Middle school students are invited to create a script for a 30-second public service announcement with a peer-to-peer substance abuse prevention message. The winning script will be filmed, starring the students who wrote it at their school. More details will be available this fall.


    PDFNJ’s efforts in schools would not be complete without the New Jersey Shout Down Drugs high school music competition. For the past 14 years, talented students from all over New Jersey have written original songs focusing on prevention, culminating in the annual Prevention Concert. At the end of a night filled with great performances and inspiring messages, three winners are chosen to continue to spread their message in performances during the following year. Click HERE for more information on the program.


    Although many of the adults reading this have been out of school for a long time, it is vital that parents and guardians stay informed on prevention.


    Sign up today for the 15 Minute Child Break and the 5th Grade Parent Alert. Both are aimed at parents, providing them vital facts and resources for helping them to keep their children healthy and drug-free.


    As the opioid misuse and abuse epidemic continues to impact our state, I also encourage students, parents, school officials and any other citizen to join the efforts to tackle the opioid epidemic on Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day on October 6.


    I wish you all a great school year!

  • Vigils to Honor Overdose Victims on International Overdose Awareness Day

    Posted 8/29/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    Friday marks an important day for people throughout the world who have lost a family member, friend or other loved one to a drug overdose. August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day, a time to remember those who have died far too soon and support those suffering from the grief of losing a loved one. The event also aims to reduce the stigma associated with addiction and overdose deaths. Several vigils will be held throughout New Jersey, including one organized by the Burlington County Coalition, king’s Crusade, NJTIP and Oxford Houses of New Jersey from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday at the Burlington County Amphitheater in Westampton.


    This week, I invite Anne Gutos, co-founder of King’s Crusade, to write about the importance of vigils remembering the victims of overdoses. During the past year, King’s Crusade has emerged as a tremendous partner of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey. The organization was an active participant in the Burlington County Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall held last October and a sponsor of this year’s Third Annual Breakfast for Families and Communities Impacted by Opioid Abuse held in February in Mount Laurel. Anne, her sister, Suzanne, and her mother, Judy, have also contributed guest blogs in the past, informing readers on the great work King’s Crusade is doing to help those in recovery. I am grateful that the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey will be a part of Friday night’s vigil, and I am looking forward to continued collaboration with King’s Crusade to help fight the opioid epidemic.


    By Anne Gutos

    Throughout my life I have seen many vigils on the news when people have lost someone through some sort of senseless crime or tragedy. From a distance they have always seemed to help those who are still living by gathering in a ritualistic way for remembrance through prayer and solidarity. I actually was always grateful that I never have had to experience one. That is until October 29, 2016, when my brother tragically died from a heroin/fentanyl overdose. My world collapsed and life closed in on me. Life would be not be the same for me ever again.


    The only recourse I felt I had was to fight back and help others from the same fate my family had suffered. It wasn’t long after my brother, King W. Shaffer Jr.’s death that my mother, Judy, and my sister, Suzanne, and I started King’s Crusade. King’s Crusade is nonprofit with the mission to rid the stigma of the disease of addiction and help families and those struggling with addiction find resources and help support the needs of those in recovery. Since we immersed in our journey, the death toll has continued to climb at an incomprehensible rate. The nation is now losing 179 people a day to overdose. In 2017 our nation had 72,000 deaths from drug overdose. In New Jersey alone, the opioid overdose reversal antidote naloxone has been deployed approximately 20,000 or more times since 2014. Rescuers armed with naloxone have saved many fortunate people from becoming what signifies a burning candle at a vigil. I can’t grasp how many more candles would be burning without naloxone.

  • Recommendations for Enhancement of Recovery Support Services in Addressing Opioid Use Disorders in NJ

    Posted 8/22/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    This week, I welcome Morgan Thompson of Prevention Links to deliver a guest blog on the state of recovery support services in New Jersey. Prevention Links has been a leader in the state, not only in prevention, but also in recovery. The organization provides services such as recovery planning and family support, and it opened and runs the Raymond Lesniak Experience, Strength and Hope Recovery High School.


    By Morgan Thompson, Prevention Links


    Recommendations for Enhancement of Recovery Support Services in Addressing Opioid Use Disorders (OUDs) in New Jersey

    The following evidence-based recovery support services are already being implemented to some extent in the state of New Jersey, but should be enhanced to serve all New Jersey residents with OUDs. In 2016, 53,511 unduplicated individuals were admitted for substance use treatment in New Jersey. In half of those cases, heroin or other opioids were the primary drug. All of these services can be used in conjunction with medications for OUDs.


    • Recovery community centers: New Jersey currently funds two recovery community centers — in Passaic and Camden counties. These facilities serve as safe spaces for mutual aid meetings, recovery-friendly social and recreational activities, case management, peer services and other important recovery supports. These centers create a centralized hub in each community through which many of the support services can be driven, and through which data and outcomes can be gathered, analyzed and discussed in a coordinated fashion, much like the statewide hospital-based Opioid Overdose Recovery Program initiative. Recommendation: Make funding available for recovery community centers in 21 counties. Estimated cost $7,350,000 (including current $700,000).


    • Peer services: Currently, peer mentors or recovery coaches are being utilized in the state primarily at the pre-treatment and engagement end of the continuum. However, peers are instrumental throughout the OUD continuum of care. In particular, having access to a peer mentor or recovery coach in the first 12 to 24 months of recovery can reduce the risk of reoccurrence and the need for subsequent treatment episodes. Recommendation: Expand the Support Team for Addiction Recovery (STAR) Program to serve all 21 counties. Estimated cost $7,350,000 (including current $3,850,000).

  • 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.

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