Experts Discuss Many Factors of Opioid Epidemic in Union County’s Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall



Contact: Matt Birchenough, 201-916-1032,

The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey held its 12th Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall on Tuesday in Union County. The expert panel featured, from left, Alton Robinson, Mariel Hufnagel, Pam Capaci, Sheriff Joseph Cryan, Acting Prosecutor Thomas K. Isenhour and Dr. Andrew Kaufman.

UNION — Experts presented Union County residents with grave statistics but also stories of hope associated with the opioid epidemic Tuesday evening at the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey’s Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall held at Kean University.

An expert panel engaged in an illuminating discussion on the opioid epidemic, moderated by Union County Freeholder Christopher Hudak. The panel included Union County Acting Prosecutor Thomas K. Isenhour; State Senator-elect Sheriff Joseph Cryan; Dr. Andrew Kaufman of Atlantic Health System; Pam Capaci, executive director of Prevention Links; Mariel Hufnagel, executive director of The Ammon Foundation; and Alton Robinson, lead peer recovery specialist with CARES-NJ.

As of November 17, 94 people in Union County had died of an overdose in 2017, while law enforcement officers in the county had administered naloxone 160 times. More than 225 people in Union County have died of a drug overdose since the start of 2015.

Isenhour, the county’s acting prosecutor, said the opioid crisis has worsened rapidly in the past few years, with the overdose death rate has nearly doubling since 2015.

“To have that kind of increase in just a matter of years, that is horrifying,” he said.

However, Union County has experienced success in addressing addiction through the county’s Community Law Enforcement Addiction Recovery (C.L.E.A.R.) program, a partnership of county law enforcement, government and Prevention Links. The program offers free recovery assistance to families and individuals suffering from addiction.

“Yes, it’s an epidemic, but we have cases to point to of real recovery,” said Cryan, the county sheriff and state senator-elect.

Organized with the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, the town hall series focuses on the link between prescription drug dependency and heroin abuse and examines the causes of the current opioid crisis and possible solutions in addressing the issue. Atlantic Health System, Kean University and Prevention Links served as collaborating partners in the Union County town hall.

“Holding events such as Knock Out Opioid Town Halls are essential to raise broad stroke community awareness and concern, because this epidemic affects the entire community,” said Capaci, the CEO of Prevention Links. “It provides an opportunity for the general public to get expert information on the critical nature of this disease.”

The town hall represented the 12th event in the series, which has traveled to counties throughout the state. The next town hall will be held in Middlesex County on Tuesday, December 12.

For more information on the Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series, visit


Best known for its statewide anti-drug advertising campaign, the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey is a private not-for-profit coalition of professionals from the communications, corporate and government communities whose collective mission is to reduce demand for illicit drugs in New Jersey through media communication.  To date, more than $70 million in broadcast time and print space has been donated to the Partnership’s New Jersey campaign, making it the largest public service advertising campaign in New Jersey’s history. Since its inception, the Partnership has garnered 166 advertising and public relations awards from national, regional and statewide media organizations.