Grim prospects for a turnaround in New Jersey's soaring heroin and opioid addiction bring shore and south Jersey officials on the frontlines into a joint assessment of conditions with Representative Tom MacArthur (R-3).

Rep. Tom MacArthur in his Ocean County District Office (Townsquare Media)

County Prosecutors Joseph Coronato of Ocean and Robert Bernardi of Burlington took part in the Friday teleconference, among 65 officials and first-responders within MacArthur's congressional district.

New Jersey's heroin overdose death rate, running three times the nationwide level, ranked among the key topics of discussion. Overall drug overdoses, including prescription medications such as OxyContin, account for an average 44 deaths per day.

Ocean County is listed among five in the state in which heroin death rates exceed treatment bed space for every 100,000 people. Thirteen percent of New Jerseyans admitted for treatment of heroin or opiate addiction - 3,688 - originate in Ocean County. Statewide, 184,038 people ni the Garden State have entered rehab for heroin and opiate use since 2010.

MacArthur reiterated his support of efforts and methods that Coronato and Bernardi have implemented to slow the onslaught. "Chances are, you may know someone engaged in a fight for their life right now-a fight you may not even know is happening-and our team in South Jersey is hard at work to end this epidemic once and for all."

He outlined several Congressional moves aimed at the problem, including his membership on the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic.

The Republican took a lead role in ushering the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act into law. The measure establishes an inter-agency task force to refine pain treatment methods, with special attention to standards used by medical professionals regarding prescription painkillers, considered a gateway drug to heroin addiction.

The law also enhances treatment programs for pregnant, and postpartum, women, and for their children. Plus, it broadens access to overdose-reversal remedies such as Naloxone (Narcan) to law enforecement and rapid-response agencies.

MacArthur seeks expansion of the Substance Abuse Block Grant program, which provides funding for purchase of Naloxone. A Resource Guide for Families Impacted by Heroin and Opiods has a portal on his web page, with print versions in his district offices.

On Monday, September 19, a workshop at Ocean County College features an overview of the epidemic by local health experts and discussion of law enforcement's role by federal and county agents and prosecutors.

Sign Up For The WOBM Newsletter