Passaic County Experts Provide Comprehensive View of the Opioid Epidemic’s Local Impact



Contact: Matt Birchenough, 201-916-1032,

Passaic County Experts Provide Comprehensive View of the Opioid Epidemic’s Local Impact

HAWTHORNE — Passaic County residents gathered Thursday night at Hawthorne Gospel Church to learn more about the nationwide opioid epidemic that has already claimed dozens of county residents in the first few months of 2018.

The Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall, organized by the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey and the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, examined the causes, effects and possible solutions for the crisis gripping Passaic County, the state and the nation.

“No community in Passaic County or New Jersey is immune to this epidemic,” said PDFNJ Executive Director Angelo Valente. “We are confident that the information presented tonight and the discussions held between experts and residents 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.”

The Passaic County town hall, held in collaboration with Hawthorne Gospel Church, United for Prevention in Passaic County, Desire 4 Hope, the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office and the Pompton Lakes Prevention Coalition, represented the 16th event in the Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series, which began in 2017. The series focuses on the link between prescription opioid dependency and heroin use and examines the causes and possible solutions of the opioid crisis from several perspectives, including law enforcement, the medical community, prevention, recovery and government.

A panel of experts provided a comprehensive look into the impact of the opioid crisis on Passaic County. Speakers included Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes; Dr. William D. Kernan, professor with the Department of Public Health at William Paterson University; Dr. Steve M. Aydin, chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation and interventional pain management at Kayal Orthopaedic Center; Dr. Adelaide Viguri, associate medical director of emergency medicine pain management with St. Joseph’s Health; Tim Stanley, director of outreach at Desire 4 Hope; and Alton Robinson, lead peer recovery specialist with CARES­ – NJ.

Rachael Honig, the First Assistant to the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, also spoke and provided a perspective from the federal level on how law enforcement is addressing the epidemic.

The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey and the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey held a Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall in Passaic County on Thursday at the Hawthorne Gospel Church. The expert panel of speakers featured, from left, Alton Robinson, Tim Stanley, Dr. William Kernan, Dr. Steve Aydin, Dr. Adelaide Viguri and Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes.

In 2018, there already have been 70 drug overdose deaths in Passaic County, a majority of which involved opioids. In 2016, the most recent year in which complete data is available, 108 people died of drug overdoses in Passaic County, including 66 deaths related to heroin, 42 related to fentanyl and 15 related to oxycodone, according to the New Jersey Office of the State Medical Examiner. The overdose death rate in the county increased by more than 30 percent from 2015.

“We know how important addressing this epidemic is, and that’s why we welcome the opportunity to do our part to help Knock Out Opioid Abuse in New Jersey,” said Rachel Goldberg, behavioral health solutions implementation manager with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey.

The next Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall will be held in Hunterdon County on Wednesday, May 9.


Best known for its statewide substance use prevention 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.