More than 120 professionals from multiple disciplines recently attended the 13th Annual Middlesex County Prevention Education Summit at the Middlesex County Fire Academy in Sayreville. “Addressing the Prescription Drug & Heroin Problem” was the focus of the 2015 event that was sponsored by the Attorney General’s Office, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, NCADD of Middlesex County, and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.
Keynote speaker Freeholder H. James Polos addressed the audience with passion, reporting the steps Middlesex County has taken to get ahead of this rapidly growing epidemic. He challenged those in attendance to get involved and help to educate the public from all sectors.
Four educational workshops followed on related topics. Special Agent Timothy McMahon of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) presented the first workshop, “Scope of the Problem”. Agent McMahon provided an overview of the progression from prescription drug abuse to the current heroin epidemic. He pointed out that heroin comes directly into New Jersey from Central and South America, making it among the purest in the country and, therefore, highly addictive and potentially deadly.
Following the first workshop, attendees had another opportunity to visit the many information tables on display. Exhibitors included Advancing Opportunities, Carrier Clinic, Diamond Counseling, Middlesex County Center for Empowerment, NCADD of Middlesex County, Inc., Princeton House Behavioral Health, Rutgers University – RWJMS, Summit Oaks, and The Counseling Center.
The second workshop, “Addressing Stigma”, was co-presented by Rebecca Alfaro from the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (GCADA) and Morgan Thompson from Young People in Recovery. They provided an informative and encouraging message about positive outcomes of treatment and recovery. They highlighted the GCADA campaign, “Addiction Does Not Discriminate”, demonstrating how the family medicine cabinet can lead to addiction.
After lunch, the third workshop was “Naloxone in New Jersey”. Paul Ressler from The Overdose Prevention Agency Corporation (TOPAC) opened the workshop with an overview of the Overdose Prevention Act and the resulting availability of the opioid overdose antidote naloxone. He demonstrated one form of the medication, EVZIO, an auto-injectable device. Then Dr. Samantha Berman from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital provided a clinical perspective of the medication and how it works to reverse an opioid overdose.
The final workshop was a panel presentation addressing “Treatment & Recovery Support”. Panelists included: Adam Bucon from the New Jersey Division of Mental Health & Addiction Services; Margaret Giovanni from Princeton House Behavioral Health; Stephanie Mulfinger from the Mental Health Association of New Jersey; and Michael Santillo from Eva’s Village. Each provided their unique perspective of the various programs and services that support individuals and families dealing with opiate addiction.
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 that there are many resources available for people suffering from addiction.” “The speakers were great, topics addressed were important.” “I plan to use (this information to) provide in-service to our staff.” “I learned about specific symptoms of overdose.” “I plan to share and spread awareness about the Good Samaritan Law.”
Attendees represented a variety of sectors in the community including law enforcement, education, health care, social services, addiction treatment, and prevention. Certificates were distributed with approved continuing education credits for addiction professionals, and nurses, and for documentation for other disciplines.