More than 115 professionals from multiple disciplines recently attended the 14th Annual Middlesex County Prevention Education Summit at the Middlesex County Fire Academy in Sayreville. “Pills to Heroin: It’s Happening to Good People” was the title of the 2016 event that was sponsored by the Attorney General’s Office, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, and Wellspring Center for Prevention, with additional support from the Middlesex County Municipal Alliance Program.
Master of Ceremonies, Diana Starace from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital began the program by introducing Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey. Prosecutor Carey addressed the audience with encouragement that we are on the right track to get ahead of this epidemic. Collaboration between all sectors of the community, and especially local police departments, is key to saving lives. He commended Sayreville Police Chief John Zebrowski for supporting the event by providing a mobile medicine collection box at the event. Sayreville is one of eleven municipalities in Middlesex County that has a permanent collection box, part of New Jersey’s Project Medicine Drop.
Workshops followed, providing the audience with several perspectives of the prescription drug/heroin epidemic, beginning with Douglas Collier from the New Jersey Office of Attorney General, Division of Consumer Affairs. Mr. Collier spoke with passion about the efforts being taken to reverse this growing epidemic. He discussed several initiatives such as the Prescription Monitoring Program, Project Medicine Drop, and prescriber education through Grand Rounds.
The second workshop featured Dr. Samantha Berman and Dr. Grant Wei from Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Emergency Medicine, who discussed the prescriber’s perspective of the opioid abuse epidemic. They addressed the practice of ‘doctor shopping’ and responsible prescribing practices. They pointed out that one hospital in NJ has changed their emergency department practice and will no longer prescribe opioids.
The next workshop was presented by Luigi Brunetti, clinical associate professor of pharmacy at Rutgers, The State University of NJ. Dr. Brunetti presented common misconceptions associated with opioids and defined the role of the pharmacist in curbing excessive opioid use.
The audience was then treated to two sessions addressing personal perspectives. First, a young man in recovery spoke about his addiction and his mother provided her own view of the issue. Their stories were compelling and demonstrated that this epidemic can affect anyone.
The final personal perspective was presented by Ray Lucas, former NFL player and Rutgers alum. Ray shared his personal journey from injury on the gridiron to painkiller addiction. His message – addiction hasno boundaries. He seeks to inspire others with the knowledge that recovery from this addiction is possible.
During the day, attendees had several opportunities to network with each other and to visit the exhibitors, who provided additional resources and information. Exhibitors included Carrier Clinic, Ocean Mental Health Services, Partnership for a Drug Free NJ, Princeton House Behavioral Health, and Wellspring Center for Prevention.
Attendees left the day with new resources, knowledge, and the tools to share the information with others. Comments include: “One thing I learned today is the prevalence and high potency of Fentanyl.” “One thing I learned today is there are difference ways to treat pain other than opiates.” “I plan to strengthen our relationship from my law enforcement background and medical professionals.” “I plan to create a local community forum.” “I liked the varied perspectives on the issue.”