Volunteers Sought For “Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day”

The Warren County Board of Chosen Freeholders joined Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey and other agencies to declare October 6, 2017 as “Knock Out Opiate Abuse Day” in Warren County.

The freeholders are urging public participation in the statewide single-day initiative, which has a dual purpose: to educate families about the addictive properties of opioid pain medicines and their association with heroin abuse rates; and to communicate safer prescribing guidelines to physicians as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. “Before They Prescribe – You Decide” is an important message organizers want to convey on Knock Out Opiate Abuse Day.

            “It is an epidemic,” Mary Jo Harris, Coordinator for the county’s Coalition of Healthy & Safe Communities, said of opioid abuse. There were 32 overdose deaths in Warren County in 2016, a tragic milestone on pace to be surpassed in 2017.

“People can get drawn in by these products – frequently legitimately – and then end up on a very bad pathway,” said Freeholder Deputy Director Ed Smith.

Freeholder Director Richard Gardner agreed, saying, “People can start out with painkillers in an innocent manner, and not too long down the road, you are hooked on the addiction.”

Late last year, the Board of Chosen Freeholders authorized the formation of a Heroin and Opioid Addiction Awareness Task Force, with Freeholder Jason Sarnoski as its liaison and chaired by Doug Steinhardt.

“We’ve learned so much over the past few months that we’ve been working together,” Sarnoski said of the Task Force. In fact, after months of studying the complexities of opioid abuse, Sarnoski said he and Steinhardt have been working with Family Guidance Center to alter the approach the panel is taking. “This crisis is just so much bigger than anyone understands, and there are so many different organizations working so hard for so many years to attack this epidemic,” Sarnoski explained.

Members of the public are encouraged to be part of the solution to end opioid abuse in the community by learning more and having their voices heard at a Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall at Warren County Community College on Friday, September 29. In addition to Mary Jo Harris, who accepted the proclamation from the Freeholders on behalf of Family Guidance Center of Warren County, the event’s scheduled guest speakers are Eugene M. Decker, DO, St. Luke’s University Health Network; New Jersey Assemblyman John DiMaio (23rd District); Warren County Prosecutor Richard T. Burke; Bill Stover, Associate Executive Director, Family Guidance Center of Warren County; and Mariel Hufnagel, Executive Director, The Ammon Foundation.

The Town Hall will be 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., with doors opening at 9:30 a.m. Warren County Community College is located at 475 Route 57 West, Washington. 

Organizers are seeking 100 volunteers to canvass the entire county on Friday, October 6 to get the message out to prescribers and families. Outreach will include providing information by going door-to-door, attending football games, and visiting doctors’ offices.

For further details on volunteering, visit www.DrugFreeNJ.org/KnockOutVolunteers or contact Mary Jo Harris at mharris@fgcwc.org or 908-223-1985. Also, at the county Heroin and Opioid Addiction Awareness Task Force’s next meeting on Oct. 5, the group will prepare for the next day’s effort. Volunteers are invited to attend that meeting from 5-6:30 p.m. in the Freeholder Meeting Room of the Wayne Dumont, Jr. Administration Building, 165 County Route 519 South, Belvidere, NJ.

Gardner noted the issue must be addressed because not only are people dying from it, but also being maimed in accidents. “There are a wide array of issues surrounding opioid addiction,” he said. “If we stay cohesive in our society about it, maybe we can change the tide of addiction.”

“I hope we can continue with an aggressive education effort and maybe make a dent in this huge problem,” Smith added.

While Sarnoski firmly supported the proclamation, he asserted that the focus on opioid abuse shouldn’t diminish any other drug awareness campaign being conducted, because there are plenty of drugs that influence our families and everyday lives. “But opioids today are killing more and more people and we really need to address it,” he said, adding, “I’m proud that the Freeholders assigned me a liaison to the Task Force, and I want to continue working hard to Knock Out Opioid Abuse.”

Photo: Mary Jo Harris of the Family Guidance Center of Warren County and coordinator for the county’s Coalition of Healthy & Safe Communities, receives a proclamation declaring October 6, 2017 as “Knock Out Opiate Abuse Day” in Warren County from Freeholder Jason J. Sarnoski, Freeholder Director Richard D. Gardner, and Freeholder Edward J. Smith.

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