Ocean County officials are banding together in hopes of putting a stop to the number of drug overdoses in the county.  To date, there have been 83 drug overdose deaths. In 2012, there were 53.

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In addition to stepping up patrols and enforcement, the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office is also partnering with the Ocean County Health Department and others to address the issue.

"Stopping the plagues of addiction and the senseless deaths must be our priority," said Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato. "We need to look at every aspect of drug use and abuse; from the legal issues to the public health concerns to truly bring significant change."

In order to provide the community with information and education, the Ocean County Opiate Task Force was formed.  The task force brings together agencies to provide services to those in need of help for their addiction and those helping them in their addiction.  The task force kicked off a 365-day campaign against opiate and heroin abuse by offering a calendar of events for the community.  Not only will there be events
during the year, the task force will be reaching out to Ocean County residents who have been affected by drug abuse to share their experiences with the group.

There are plenty of options for those who end up addicted, but want help.

"One of those things is not arresting drug users when they call 911 and say they need help. There are rehab programs and methods out there that work. Drug court is also now a mandatory part of someone using, especially if they haven't committed a felony. We feel strongly about helping rather than just resorting to incarceration," said Al Della Fave, a spokesman with the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office.

Coronato said the majority of Ocean County's robberies are drug-related.  "We see youth and young adults stealing money to buy drugs or breaking into homes looking for drugs.  Seaside Heights, Toms River, Lacey Township and Manchester Police Departments offer Rx drop-off boxes for residents to dispose of their unused or expired medications. If you have no use for the drug, get rid of it and get rid of it safely by using one of the drop-off boxes."

The county will also be observing "International Overdose Awareness Day" on Aug. 31. It aims to raise awareness of drug overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death.

"This day is to commemorate those who have died or are suffering permanent injury as a result of a drug overdose; it also acknowledges the grief felt by their families and friends," said Ocean County Freeholder Gary Little.