One of the educational drug abuse programs implemented in Middlesex County, New Jersey, caught national attention last month. Now, local officials prepare to support additional programs and to promote mental health and addiction awareness.
Last month’s program was established by the Middlesex school district to start a dialogue about the opioid epidemic and overdose prevention by requiring parents or legal guardians of middle schoolers to attend an hour-long opioid prevention seminar before they could receive tickets to their children’s graduation.
Although the program was criticized by some parents, local officials explained that these initiatives come as a response to the impact that drug abuse has had on the area, particularly on the educational system.
“Drugs have impacted Middlesex and Monroe over the last few years with increased overdoses, addictions and prescriptions,” said Monroe Township Councilman Charles Dipierro. “The sector most affected would be our schools. We have hired 16 security officers. We have eight schools; the 16 security officers and we have nine retired police officers. The mayor and council have decided to hire one police officer per school for the last two months for public safety and school safety. They hired motivational speakers to educate the students. Police get involved with students and teachers.”
The Township of Monroe — home to 42,137 of 830,300 Middlesex County residents — has also felt substance abuse affect its law enforcement.
“The impact is a negative impact as our police is increasing staff as well,” Dipierro explained. “Monroe just added six more police officers for a total of 59 in our 42 square mile township.”
Law enforcement officials in Middlesex County have had a tough battle against substance abuse and drug overdoses. Last year, first responders and police officers administered naloxone to reverse almost 500 opioid overdoses across the county, according to the New Jersey Regional Operations & Intelligence Center.
Statistics from NJ Cares show that just this year Middlesex County has seen 144 naloxone administrations, dispensed 82,895 opioid prescriptions, and reckoned over 50 suspected drug overdose deaths.
The numbers prompted state officials and organizations to be more proactive. The Middlesex County Office of Human Services hopes to educate the community on issues related to mental health and substance use disorders by sponsoring several activities such as first-response training sessions, which will begin this month and be held through May.
Next month, the Board of Chosen Freeholder will also gather to focus on ending the stigma associated with addiction and mental illness by proclaiming May as the Mental Health Awareness Month in Middlesex County.
Likewise, the state-designated Saint Peter’s University Hospital, which has offered free educational drug abuse programs to the Middlesex school district, will expand addiction awareness in the area. This month, the medical institution is hosting two programs on opioid addiction in partnership with… (continue reading)