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Fighting the Heroin Epidemic

Law Enforcement Prevention and the Medical Community are joining forces to discuss solutions to New Jersey’s prescription drug and heroin abuse epidemic during statewide symposiums being held this week in Ocean, Camden and Morris Counties.

The dialogue is being hosted by the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey over three days. Executive Director Angelo Valente said the “Do No Harm” symposiums are to engage the medical community in developing strategies to reverse the alarming trends seen in the state of New Jersey, in particular in Ocean County. “Do No Harm is an opportunity for law enforcement prevention and the medical community to come together to discuss the issue and to look at ways in which we can reverse this epidemic and the alarming trends that we’re seeing, ” said Valente.

Valente said research has shown in many cases the epidemic of heroin abuse begins with prescription drug abuse. “The first access that many young people have is a medicine cabinet where they experiment with opiate-based drugs, and then unfortunately, in a number of cases that leads to a heroin addiction,” he said.

Prevention is the main focus. “We have to prevent young people from getting access to these medicines whether it be through the medicine cabinet or in some cases through the prescription pad,” said Valente, adding one of the discussions will include ways in which medicines are being prescribed. “Another area we’re looking at is the prevention monitoring program which allows doctors to find through a computerized system if an individual is doctor shopping, which means they’re going from doctor to doctor to access medications through prescriptions. And we know that that’s something that is being done and has been done, but it will be eliminated through this new technology,” he said, also noting doctors who prescribe without the best intent of their patients in mind would be tracked through the prescription monitoring program. “It’s an opportunity for law enforcement to see where there are patterns that are not standard.”

500 doctors are expected to attend the “Do Not Harm” symposiums over three days. Medical professionals interested in attending the free event can register at drugfreenj.org. Doctors will receive Continuing Education Credits without having to pay a fee.

The list of guest speakers scheduled for Wednesday’s symposium in Ocean County at Community Medical Center include: Carl J. Kotowski, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA New Jersey Division, Paul J. Fishman, New Jersey United States Attorney, Onaje Salim, Acting Deputy Director with the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Joseph D. Coronato, Ocean County Prosecutor, and Dr. Vikram Varma, Chairperson, Community Medical Center Emergency Department.   

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