• Colorful, Cartoon Pills a Concern on Halloween

    Posted 10/31/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    Happy Halloween! Today is a great opportunity for children of all ages to enjoy a fun-filled night with their friends and family.


    However, it’s still important for parents and guardians to exercise caution and supervision, not only as their children go door-to-door in their neighborhoods but also before they dig in to any of the candy they receive. In a disturbing story from Georgia, police are concerned about drug pills that look like candy possibly ending up in the hands of children.


    The pills are colorful and in the shapes of popular cartoon characters, which police say might lead a child to mistake them for sweet and sour candy. For older teens who might be aware that the pills are drugs, the pills’ colorful appearance might make them seem less dangerous.


    To make sure children are kept safe, parents should check all Halloween candy before children begin eating it. This incident also serves as a reminder that it’s important for parents to talk about the dangers of drugs with their children.


    Today is about fun and creating memories that will last for years to come. Stay vigilant to help keep children safe and have an enjoyable Halloween.

  • Red Ribbon Week a Prime Time to Educate Children and Parents

    Posted 10/24/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    Yesterday, the annual Red Ribbon Week kicked off throughout the United States to make youth aware of the dangers of drug and alcohol use.  


    The campaign will run through October 31 and has been held every year since 1988 to commemorate Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, who was tortured and killed in Mexico in 1985.


    Red Ribbon Week is an important opportunity for students throughout the country to become better informed on the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol and also to profess to themselves, their peers and their communities that they are committed to living drug-free and healthy lives.


    This year’s Red Ribbon Week theme is, “Life is your journey. Travel drug-free.”


    The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey offers several free resources to help New Jersey youth embark on that journey toward a substance-free lifestyle.


    Programs include the Third Grade Contract for a Healthy Life and the Fourth Grade Folder Contest, which both encourage students to live healthy lifestyles free of substance use. 


    The Middle School PSA Challenge invites students in grades 5-8 to create a 30-second public service announcement with a substance use prevention message. The creators of the winning entry are then chosen to film their PSA, which will be broadcast on stations throughout the state.


    High school students can spread their own substance abuse prevention messages in the annual New Jersey Shout Down Drugs music competition. The contest culminates with the annual Prevention Concert, at which finalists perform their original music and winners are given contracts to perform their songs at events during the following year.


    Of course, parents and guardians play a major role in preventing children from using drugs and alcohol, and the 15 Minute Child Break provides adults with information on current drug trends and how to best address the topic of drugs and alcohol with children. The Fifth Grade Parent Alert is also a useful tool in guiding a parent on how to talk with their children about drugs.


    Red Ribbon Week is a perfect opportunity to continue prevention education for children and parents.


    In other news, I am honored to announce I will be receiving the Daniel A. Kane Memorial Community Service Award on Thursday night at the CarePoint Foundation Gala.


    CarePoint has been a great partner of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey over the past five years, sponsoring several events including a Do No Harm Symposium, the annual Drugs Don’t Work in NJ drug-free workplace seminar and the Hudson County Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall.


    CarePoint has also been proactive in addressing the ongoing opioid crisis in New Jersey. Christ Hospital in Jersey City recently became the second hospital in the country to implement the Alternatives to Opioids program in its emergency department. 


    Once again, I am grateful to the CarePoint Foundation for presenting me with this prestigious award and am looking forward further collaboration to tackle the opioid epidemic in years to come.

  • NJTV Special on Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series Premieres Thursday, October 18th

    Posted 10/17/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    Over the past two years, the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey and The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey have had the opportunity to visit each county in the state with the Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series. The town hall series engaged residents, families, professionals and communities regarding their concerns and what best practices currently exist to address the ongoing opioid epidemic.


    The town halls moved throughout the state to engage and inform the public on the opioid crisis, while simultaneously learning from residents and experts how the crisis is affecting their communities.


    At 9 p.m. Thursday night, NJTV will premiere an hour-long special on the Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series, which examines the impact the series had on New Jersey residents. The show will focus on what attendees learned, as well as innovative locally driven initiatives that are serving as role models for other counties and communities to replicate. 


    More than 14,000 people participated in the town halls either in-person or by viewing an online stream of the events. The series featured more than 100 expert panelists, including 16 county prosecutors, 10 members of the New Jersey General Assembly and four state senators, as well as several prevention and treatment professionals, medical doctors and recovery specialists.


    While the Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series helped to bring vital, life-saving information on the opioid crisis ravaging New Jersey to all 21 counties in the state, the town halls also simultaneously provided a forum for leaders in the fight against the epidemic to showcase initiatives that have been making a positive impact.


    For a list of NJTV channels in your area, visit


    Tune in to NJTV starting Thursday night to learn more about the opioid epidemic and how you can bring these best practices to your community.

  • Thank You for Doing Your Part to Knock Out Opioid Abuse!

    Posted 10/10/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    This past Saturday was Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day in New Jersey. In all 21 counties of our state, participants came together in their own community to shine light on the opioid crisis by sharing a message of prevention, education and hope.


    An estimated 10,000 people throughout New Jersey participated, including high school and college students, scouts, prevention coalitions, law enforcement officers, businesses, local elected officials and two United States Congressmen, Bill Pascrell and Leonard Lance.


    Many municipalities followed the lead of the State Senate and General Assembly by passing resolutions declaring October 6 Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day in their towns.


    Many participating groups brought the message of Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day to community events throughout the state, while more than 50 high school football teams from 15 counties ran onto the field with Knock Out Opioid Abuse stickers displayed on their helmets.


    I thank those who participated for their time, effort and energy that went into making this day a meaningful response to the opioid epidemic. Whether they were canvassing communities, visiting prescribers, coordinating proclamations, sharing email campaigns or posting messages on social media, everyone made an impact!


    Please click the read more link for a few examples from around the state, and I welcome you to share your efforts by emailing them directly to me or using the hashtag #KnockOutOpioidAbuse on social media.


    Lastly, I am proud that New Jersey is the only state in the country to have a statewide day in which thousands of volunteers unite to Knock Out Opioid Abuse. You can all take great pride in knowing that Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day has been recognized by the New Jersey Ad Club as the state’s top advocacy/political multimedia campaign and that it also received the silver award in the Not-for-Profit Health Marketing category from the National Public Health Information Coalition.

  • 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.

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