NJ’s heroin epidemic: What progress did we make in 2015?
As 2015 comes to a close, New Jersey’s heroin and prescription drug abuse epidemic shows no signs of slowing down, but experts insist progress is being made.
“Over the past year Narcan has been phased in statewide, but I think you have to realize that this problem is not going to go away within a year or two years, you have to be in for the long haul,” said Ocean County Prosecutor Joe Coronato.
Narcan, the heroin antidote drug given overdose victims, was first used in Ocean County as part of a pilot program.
Coronato believes to put the brakes on the opiod epidemic, we must break the cycle of addiction, so beginning next week, “interveners” will be stationed at hospitals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so when a drug overdose victim is brought in, they can be convinced to go into rehab.
“Hopefully now we will be addressing breaking the cycle of addiction,” said Coronato. “I think these are the steps that are necessary, it’s really the first of its kind I think you’re going to see in the entire nation.”
Coronato also points out drug education efforts must be stepped up.
“This must be done starting with the school children,” he said. “Getting in and saying this is a road you don’t want to go down, I think you have to embrace prevention.”
At the same time he stresses strong law enforcement is essential.
“You have to be in the long haul for law enforcement, use all your sophistication to make sure that you go after the true predator, and at the same time you need to address the disease,” Coronato said.
Even with all of these things working at the same time, Coronato knows slowing and stopping this epidemic will take time.
“Maybe one year, two years you may not see any dramatic results but I think after a period of time, being a five or six year period, you’ll see that there is a change, and hopefully we’ll see a dramatic change,” he said.
Data from the CDC shows there were 741 heroin-related deaths in Jersey in 2013, and last year it’s estimated there were 781 opiod related deaths.