Warren County is not immune to the opioid crisis encompassing the rest of New Jersey and the United States. A new sign on Route 31 by the Washington Township administration building is a sobering reminder that this crisis is having an effect on neighbors, family, and friends here in Warren County.
According to the Warren County Prosecutor’s office, there were 35 deaths due to overdoses in the county in 2017 and dozens of “saves” as a result of NARCAN deployments.
The Coalition for Healthy and Safe Communities (a program of the Family Guidance Center of Warren County) in collaboration with Warren County Law Enforcement, Parent to Parent Warren County (P2PWC), the Warren County Recovery Advocacy Team (an affiliate of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) NJ) and Washington Township have been working together to raise awareness to the opiate epidemic that Warren County is not immune.
In 2016 there were 32 confirmed overdose deaths and in 2017 that number reached 35.
“While an increase of three deaths to some may not be alarming, the reality is Warren County is losing three people a month to drug addiction,” said MaryJo Harris, Coordinator for the Coalition for Healthy and Safe Communities.
Of the deaths in 2017, 16 were individuals under the age of 30.
“No age group is immune from the opioid crisis,” said Richard Burke, Warren County Prosecutor. “In 2017, Warren County victims of overdose deaths ranged in age from 17 to 59.”
Thankfully, NARCAN has saved many others from death. It is not uncommon for first responders to be called to a possible overdose where NARCAN is then deployed to save a life. In 2017, first responders administered NARCAN over 130 times. This is an huge increase from the previous year when there were 103 “saves.” If first responders were not able to carry this life saving drug, Warren County deaths would have far exceeded the 35 confirmed for the year. Over half the municipalities in Warren County have now responded to an overdose call where NARCAN had to be administered to an individual.
Due to the increase in the use of NARCAN and a shortage in the county, donations are being accepted by the Warren County Police Chiefs Association for the sole purpose of purchasing NARCAN kits for first responders should the supply be depleted. For more information on how you can donate, contact Chief Michael Reilly at the Mansfield Township Police Department at 908-689-6222, x220
Meanwhile, the purpose of the Route 31 sign is to continue to raise awareness to the drug problems in Warren County. Law Enforcement and town councils are working together with Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Support service providers to bring the community together to address these problems as a united front.
“We will continue to report on the number of deaths and overdoses that are happening county wide in an effort to call attention to the drug problems in the county,” said Burke. “We hope through these efforts we can change minds that this problem is not going away. This is a community wide problem which can only be overcome by a community wide effort.”
“Whether we understand addiction or not, we have to come together to agree that no matter what the cause of death, people are suffering; families are suffering,” added Harris. Drugs are robbing our youth and young adults of their future and dreams. Drugs are robbing the safety and well-being of our community.”
There are a number of countywide prevention, treatment and recovery support services in place throughout the county and within specific municipalities. If you want to get involved to help with these efforts you can find information on the Warren County website under Warren County Addiction Awareness Task Force or by calling the Coalition for Healthy and Safe Communities at 908-223-1985.
Photo left to right, Sheriff’s Officer Vic Ioffredo, Undersheriff Edward Mirenda, Diane Bonelli of the Coalition for Healthy and Safe Communities, Washington Township Police Offiicer Phil Smith, Warren County Prosecutor Richard Burke, Helen Carey, Parent Advocate, Washington Township Police Chief Tom Cicerelle,, Warren County Sheriff James McDonald, Undersheriff Todd Pantuso, and Officer Christopher Summers.