A large group of Mercer County residents gathered at The College of New Jersey on Wednesday night to learn more about the opioid crisis sweeping the nation at the final Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall, sponsored by the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey and the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey.
A panel of speakers that featured experts from the law enforcement, medical, legislative, prevention, treatment and recovery fields provided attendees an all-encompassing view of the epidemic gripping the state and the impact it has had on Mercer County.
“Here in Mercer County, heroin is three things. It’s prevalent, it’s cheap, and it’s potent,” Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri said. “New Jersey and Mercer County have the highest heroin purity levels in the United States.”
Speakers also discussed topics such as the dangers of prescription opioids, the barriers to treatment and recovery and the importance of having community discussions on the epidemic.
“When do we have these conversations? I think the more often we have them and the more practical they are, the better things will be,” said Dr. Rachael Evans, chief medical officer at Henry J. Austin Health Center.
Other speakers on the panel included Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson; Barbara Sprechman, assistant executive director of the Mercer Council; Dr. Stuart Roe, Chairperson of the Department of Counselor Education at TCNJ; and Barrett Young, chief operating officer of the Rescue Mission of Trenton.
The Mercer County town hall was the 20th and final event in the Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series, which began in 2017 and was hosted for audiences from all 21 New Jersey counties. The series focused on the link between prescription opioid dependency and heroin use and examines the causes and possible solutions of the opioid crisis from several perspectives, including law enforcement, government, the medical community, prevention, treatment and recovery.
“We know how important addressing this epidemic is, and that’s why we welcomed the opportunity to do our part to help Knock Out Opioid Abuse in New Jersey,” said Dr. Steven Peskin, executive medical director of population Health with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey.
The Mercer County event was held in collaboration with Mercer County, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, The College of New Jersey, the Drug Enforcement Administration – New Jersey Division and the Mercer Council.
Best known for its statewide substance use prevention advertising campaign, the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey is a private not-for-profit coalition of professionals from the communications, corporate and government communities whose collective mission is to reduce demand for illicit drugs in New Jersey through media communication. To date, more than $100 million in broadcast time and print space has been donated to the Partnership’s New Jersey campaign, making it the largest public service advertising campaign in New Jersey’s history. Since its inception, the Partnership has garnered 166 advertising and public relations awards from national, regional and statewide media organizations.