Local experts on the opioid epidemic ravaging New Jersey addressed its impact on Cape May 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 Cape May 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 Cape May Town Hall, held in collaboration with Cape Regional Health System, Cape Assist, The City of Cape May, and The Cape May County Chamber of Commerce, featured opening remarks from Mayor Clarence F. Lear III and a panel discussion including Chief Alex Coulter of the Cape May Fire Department; Cape Assist’s Director of Prevention, Joe Faldetta; Executive Director of Cape Regional Foundation, Tom Piratzky; Business Owner and Person in Recovery, Brian Leach, and Vicki Clark, President and CEO of Cape May County Chamber of Commerce.
Panelists discussed efforts to address the epidemic’s effects on the Cape May community, including prevention programs such as Strengthening Families, Cares, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and ACE’s, a ten-question survey that measures a child’s exposure to cycles of trauma or Adverse Childhood Experiences.
“Cape May County has one of the highest rates of adverse childhood experiences in the state of New Jersey.” said Piratzky. “Many times, our ACE’s kids will turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with what they’re dealing with.”
Cape Regional Medical Center, with the help of the Middle Township Police Department, Lower Cape May Regional School District, Cape Counseling Services, and the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce, are working together to build resiliency among families in Cape May County to eliminate the consequential behavioral and substance use issues.
“We are focused on promoting resiliency and fostering healthy coping skills to help kids learn how to manage life stresses and effectively combat ACE’s.” said Faldetta.
Leach shared his own experience battling with substance use from an early age and some of the struggles he faced trying to get help and access treatment.
“There were a lot of people who treated me like I had the plague and didn’t want to have anything to do with me,” said Leach. “But drug court program in Cape May gave me a shot. They showed me how to live again and helped to get me where I am at today.
“It is important to raise awareness to the people in our community and let them know that help is available.”
In 2018, there were 47 reported overdose deaths in Cape May County — most of which involved some form of opioid — according the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General. Law enforcement officers and emergency medical responders administered the overdose antidote, naloxone, more than 200 times that same year.
Since January, there have been 11 opioid overdoses—one of which was fatal—in Cape May, according to recent data from the New Jersey Army National Guard (NJARNG) Counterdrug Task Force.
“It’s not one strategy that is going to solve this problem.” said Faldetta. “It takes multiple strategies across multiple sectors and a community working together to resolve this epidemic.”
To see a video of the Cape May Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall or to see the fall schedule of upcoming town halls, visit knockoutopioidabuse.drugfreenj.org. The next town hall in the series will be held from 10-11:30 a.m. on Friday, October 4 at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, NJ 08854.