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Robbinsville Residents Seek Solutions to Opioid Epidemic at Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall

ROBBINSVILLE — Local experts on the opioid epidemic ravaging New Jersey stressed the need for a united effort in addressing the issue before a capacity crowd Tuesday night 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 Robbinsville event — the first in a series of 21 town halls to be held in a community in each of New Jersey's counties in 2019 and 2020 — examined the nature of the opioid crisis in the township and what actions are being taken to address it.

"There are no easy answers for solving the opioid epidemic, but there are ways each of us can make a difference in this important fight," said PDFNJ Executive Director Angelo Valente. "It is necessary for everyone — parents, community leaders, students and residents — to work together as a community and develop ways to end this epidemic and to change the public attitude toward addiction."

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, through its philanthropic arm, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, is collaborating with PDFNJ on a new two-year Knock Out Opioid Abuse initiative to address the opioid epidemic through community outreach, prescriber education, parent education and a statewide awareness campaign.  The campaign will include a new micro-website that will be an informational and interactive hub on opioids, transit and outdoor advertising, and social media communications.

The Robbinsville town hall was held in collaboration with the Robbinsville C.A.R.E (Community Addiction Recovery Effort) Program, Robbinsville Township, the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office and the Prevention Coalition of Mercer County.

The expert panel of speakers included Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri; Dr. Neal Schofield, Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry for Princeton House Behavioral Health, Penn Medicine; Robbinsville Mayor Dave Fried; Reverend Edgar Shaffer, minister at Robbinsville First Baptist Church; Roy Leitstein, CEO of Legacy Treatment Center; and Marissa Esposito, a person in recovery with the Robbinsville C.A.R.E. Program.

In 2018, 147 people in Mercer County died of a drug overdose, a vast majority of which involved some form of opioid, according the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General. There were 24 suspected overdose deaths in the county through the first three months of 2019.

"Here in Robbinsville, there are [drug] seizures literally every day," said Onofri, the county prosecutor. "Please don't think that just because this is a great community and that it's very affluent, that the problem is not here. Once you start thinking that, that's when you lose the battle."

The township has taken action to address addiction in the community by launching the C.A.R.E. Program in 2016, through which Robbinsville Police offer people arrested for possessing or being under the influence of an opioid a pathway to recovery by providing resources, access to treatment and guidance from a trained drug counselor.

Since the program's inception, 80 people have successfully completed the program, according to Fried, the township's mayor.

"We got serious about getting people help," he said. "The more we bring [this issue] into the light...that's how we're going to win."

To watch a video of the Robbinsville Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall, visit knockoutopioidabuse.drugfreenj.org. The next town hall in the series will be held in Galloway in Atlantic County from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, May 7.  


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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

 

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