By Kimberly Kerr, SNJ Today Reporter
PENNS GROVE, N.J. -
Opioid abuse is tragically a growing issue not only here in the Garden Sate, but across the entire country. In response to this epidemic, the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey organization made its way to Salem County to educate nursing students on the staggering statistics that are growing each year.
“The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey coordinates a series of 'Do No Harm' Symposiums for prescribers, nurses, [and] dentists across the state,” said Angela Conover, director of media and community relations for the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey.
The organization brought the symposium to Salem Community College on Wednesday, March 29th, to help educate nursing students on the epidemic.
“I am very excited that the nursing program is participating and that they’ll be the biggest advocates for their patients when they’re in the field," said Donald Noblett, Salem-Cumberland Region Action Toward Community Health (SCRATCH) Coalition Coordinator for the Southwest Council. "So, I’m really excited for them to have this background knowledge as they’re about to serve our community members.”
“It’s so important to do it in Salem County to bring a message of safer prescribing to nurses here in Salem County because we’re seeing levels of abuse in the area grow,” said Conover.
The Salem County Prosecutor’s Office discussed the growth of the drug problem and shared some rising statistics happening in their backyard.
“The NARCAN deployments have already gone up to 15 and we’re only up to March," said Sgt. Elliot Hernandez with the Salem County Prosecutor’s Office. "Last year we had a total of 16 NARCAN deployments.”
One Salem County prosecutor addressed the crowd with a quote from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
“[Christie] said more people have died from opioid overdoses than have died from murders or from car accidents,” said John Lenahan, Salem County prosecutor. "So it’s a significant problem, and it’s becoming a greater and greater problem."
Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the New Jersey Division of the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration, Nicholas Kolen, added: “Salem County, one of the 21 counties [in the state], is not immune to this epidemic and as I’m going to explain – currently across the United States, 144 people are dying every day.
"Sixty-three percent of those deaths from drug abuse are due to prescription drug and heroin abuse."
Those in attendance didn’t just receive education during the symposium. Each person was sent home with an informational packet filled with additional resources and prescription guidelines.
The Southwest Council hopes bringing events like these throughout South Jersey will help with drug-abuse prevention in the long run.
“We feel like it’s imperative that our community members are educated about the link to reduce the likelihood of teenagers and our youth making the decision to start with prescription drug abuse,” said Noblett.