CAMDEN CITY NJ— Local experts on the opioid epidemic ravaging New Jersey addressed its impact on Camden and discussed solutions with its residents at a Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall sponsored by the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ) and The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey.
The Camden Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall was part of a two-year Knock Out Opioid Abuse initiative to address the opioid crisis through community outreach, prescriber education, parent education and a statewide awareness program in all 21 New Jersey counties throughout 2019 and 2020.
The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey and The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey held a Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall in Camden on Wednesday, October 16. From left, Jonathan Pearson, Executive Director of the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey; Jennifer Goudy, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey; Dr. Matthew S. Salzman, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, Cooper University Health Care; Dr. Linda Mur, Ph.D., Associate Vice President of Substance Use Disorder Services, Center for Family Services; Angelo Valente, Executive Director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey; Dr. Serena Natal, DNP, APN, FPMHNP, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner; Alexa Garvey, Person in Long-term Recovery; Graduate Student, Rutgers University; and Keith Davis, Senior Pastor, Evangelism Today Christian Church.
The Camden Town Hall, held in collaboration with Rutgers University-Camden, featured a panel discussion including Dr. Matthew S. Salzman, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, Cooper University Health Care; Dr. Serena Natal, DNP, APN, FPMHNP, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner; Dr. Linda Mur, Ph.D., Associate Vice President of Substance Use Disorder Services, Center for Family Services; Alexa Garvey, Person in Long-term Recovery; Graduate Student, Rutgers University; and Keith Davis, Senior Pastor, Evangelism Today Christian Church.
Panelists discussed efforts to address the epidemic’s effects in Camden including peer to peer programs such as the Opioid Overdose Recovery Program, the Center for Family Service’s STAR program and local faith-based initiatives.
“The best person to talk to someone in addiction is someone who has been in that position,” said Dr. Mur. “Peer specialists are crucial in showing that there is hope in their situation — it isn’t a hopeless one.”
Garvey shared her own experience battling with depression and substance use, and the importance of community support and empathy.
“Community members should seek to understand that the opioid crisis cannot be fully addressed at an arm’s length. That is to say, committed community members should seek to understand, empathize and find similarities with themselves, instead of highlighting differences,” said Garvey. “For the crisis to truly be eradicated, empathy cannot be spared.”
Pastor Davis also spoke about the church’s role in offering peer support through their prison reentry program and the need for other faith-based organizations to get involved.
“Love is our core competency,” said Davis. “There is an enormous opportunity here for faith-based leaders to get involved and spread messages of love and hope.”
In 2018, Camden County’s 329 overdose deaths— most of which involved some form of opioid — ranked second among New Jersey’s 21 counties, according the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General. Camden County’s law enforcement officers and emergency medical responders (EMS) administered the overdose antidote, naloxone, over 3,000 times.
Since January of 2019, there have been 182 opioid overdose deaths in Camden and 1630 naloxone administrations, according to The Office of the New Jersey Attorney General.
“There are no easy answers for solving the opioid epidemic, but together we can make a difference in this important fight.” said Valente.
Residents can visit knockoutopioidabuse.drugfreenj.org to register to attend future town halls, submit questions for panelists prior to the events, and share their personal stories of how they have been affected by the opioid epidemic.
The website also features information on scheduled town halls, videos from each event and a look into the lives of New Jersey residents who have been affected by the opioid epidemic. It also includes an online continuing medical education program for prescribers and information on parent education through the 5th Grade Parent Alert.
For more information on the Camden Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall or to see a list of other upcoming town halls, visit knockoutopioidabuse.drugfreenj.org.
Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey: 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 174 advertising and public relations awards from national, regional and statewide media organizations.
About Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey: Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, the state's oldest and largest health insurer is a tax-paying, not-for-profit health service corporation, providing a wide array of medical, dental, vision and prescription insurance products and services. Horizon BCBSNJ is leading the transformation of health care in New Jersey by working with doctors and hospitals to deliver innovative, patient-centered programs that reward the quality, not quantity, of care patients receive. Learn more at www.HorizonBlue.com. Horizon BCBSNJ is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association serving more than 3.8 million members.
About The Horizon Foundation For New Jersey: The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey is committed to working alongside those who can help us improve our neighbors’ health, inform their health decisions and inspire them to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives. The Foundation’s funding pillars are Caring, Connecting and Creating. Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is the sole member of The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, both of which are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more information, please visit www.Horizonblue.com/Foundation