Experts and Residents Examine Impact, Solutions to Opioid Crisis at Hudson County Town Hall



Contact: Matt Birchenough, 201-916-1032,

Experts and Residents Examine Impact, Solutions to Opioid Crisis at Hudson County Town Hall

JERSEY CITY — A group of Hudson County and national experts on the opioid epidemic provided a comprehensive view of the deadly epidemic for an audience of hundreds of county residents who attended Tuesday’s Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall, organized by the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey and the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey.

Speakers educated attendees with the harrowing statistics and tragic personal stories associated with the opioid epidemic that claimed the lives of more than 42,000 people in the United States in 2016.  The event featured opening remarks from the United States Attorney Craig Carpenito and discussion from panelists including Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez and Dennis E. González, Acting Regional Director and Executive Officer with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“So far in 2018, New Jersey has had 856 overdose deaths and 1.3 million opioid prescriptions dispensed,” Carpenito said. “What has struck me most about the opioid crisis that it really is a faceless addiction. It knows no race, it knows no gender. The opioid crisis doesn’t know socioeconomic issues. It’s everywhere.”


The town hall, held in the Mac Mahon Student Center at Saint Peter’s University, was the 15th in the Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series, which began in 2017 with the purpose of focusing on the link between prescription opioid dependency and heroin use and examining the causes and possible solutions of the opioid crisis.

“There is not one community in Hudson County or New Jersey that has been unaffected by the opioid crisis,” said PDFNJ Executive Director Angelo Valente. “We are confident that our discussions today will help lead toward progress in fighting this epidemic and prevent more New Jersey families from having to endure the tragedies that too many have already faced.”

In 2016, the most recent year in which complete data is available, 127 people died of opioid overdoses in Hudson County, including 77 from heroin and 32 from fentanyl, according to the New Jersey Office of the State Medical Examiner. The county rate of 1.87 overdose deaths per 1,000 persons increased by 18.7 percent from 2015.

“The use of heroin, and the use and abuse of prescription opioids, continues to be a challenging and costly crisis for the United States and Hudson County is no exception,” Suarez said. “This epidemic has tentacles reaching into every neighborhood and every facet of our society leaving a path of destruction wherever it goes. This growing crisis must be attacked and those of us at the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office have committed of ourselves to not only enforce drug laws, but to also provide resources to those that need it the most.”

A capacity crowd attended Tuesday’s Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall for Hudson County held at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City. The expert panel discussing the opioid epidemic featured, from left, Assi Amos of the Giants Steps Program, Mariel Hufnagel of the Ammon Foundation, Rebecca Alfaro of GCADA, Acting Regional Director Dennis E. González of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez and Dr. Tucker Woods.


The program was organized in collaboration with Saint Peter’s University, CarePoint Health, the CarePoint Foundation and the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.

“The battle against a statewide epidemic such as the opioid crisis cannot be fought by a single organization or agency,” said Eugene J. Cornacchia, President of Saint Peter’s University. “This is why events such as the opioid town hall series are so important in bringing together leaders in our community to make an impact.”

The panel featured experts from law enforcement, government, the medical field and prevention and treatment professionals, who provided a comprehensive look into the causes and impact of the opioid epidemic in Hudson County. Speakers included Mariel Hufnagel, Executive Director of the Ammon Foundation; Dr. Tucker Woods, CMO, Senior Administrative Officer at CarePoint Health Christ Hospital; Rebecca Alfaro, Deputy Director of the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse; and Assi Amos, Director of Substance Abuse Services with the Giant Steps Program.

“This growing epidemic has taken the lives of so many and one of the most effective ways of combating this, is through education and outreach to the communities we serve,” said Paula A. Nevoso, President of the CarePoint Foundation.

A dedicated website,, includes the full schedule of countywide town hall meetings and registration information. also provides local, county and state substance abuse prevention and treatment resources available.


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 $100 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.