Man counts white pills in his hand.

By: ShaRonda Amon, Coalition Coordinator

On Wednesday, August 31st, people gathered to honor their loved ones who have died from an overdose and to raise awareness on the impact that opioids have had on their community. The Dunellen Municipal Alliance hosted their 6th Annual Overdose Awareness Ceremony at Washington Memorial Park. The event began with Councilman Hal Vandermark who issued a proclamation recognizing International Overdose Awareness Day. Mara Carlin, the Director of Prevention Services at Wellspring Center for Prevention, spoke about the importance of educating the community on trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) to combat the misuse of substances. “Wellspring, along with the Dunellen Municipal Alliance has been working to change policies, reduce access to substances and decrease availability to the youth. In Dunellen, there is a comprehensive substance use prevention program starting in first grade. Every single student who goes to a Dunellen Public school, gets substance use prevention every single year.”

Eman Gibson, Chief Clinical Officer from Integrity House, educated the community on the use of Naloxone (Narcan) and how it helps saves the lives of those experiencing an opioid overdose. Katie Maher from RWJ Barnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery increased awareness of resources available to individuals living with substance use disorders.

The event also highlighted the impact of someone going through treatment and recovery. Carly Fuchs, a Peer Recovery Specialist from RWJUH-NB, who has been in recovery for 8 years, shared her story of recovery and talked about the role that peer recovery specialists have in helping someone on their journey to recovery. Their job is to have “a real intimate conversation with the patient which helps us build that connection and come up with a plan” to navigate the path to healing.

Lt. Beenders from The Dunellen Police Department spoke on the impact on first responders and how they witness the aftermath of an overdose not just on the individual but also the family. He believes “we should be giving resources instead of judgment and making hope the most contagious thing in our community.”

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