LBI Lighthouse

Officials make progress in the face of fentanyl overdoses

Officials recently met with the Ocean County Mayors Association, providing an update on the opioid epidemic, and said that some progress has been made this year.

It’s possible, given the number of overdoses so far this year, that Ocean County might see a decrease of about 25 percent from last year, Prosecutor Joseph Coronato said. There were 209 for all of 2016. This would be the first decrease in years.

Although many people think of the problem as mostly heroin, that does not paint a complete picture, he said. Fentanyl, another opioid, has been showing up in the toxicology of overdose victims more and more. In 2014, it was present in 10 percent of overdoses. This year so far, it’s been present in 65 percent.

Sheriff Michael Mastronardy said 70 percent of people in the county’s drug court were originally addicted to painkillers. The Ocean County Drug Court is an intensive probation program offered to some nonviolent offenders, geared toward keeping people from going back to old habits.

The three main focuses for police combating the opioid epidemic are education, enforcement, and treatment, Coronato said.

Officers are embedded in the school system, he said. They meet with superintendents and speak to parents at back-to-school nights.

There is a free app for mobile devices that kids can use to reach out to the police without any penalties. The information for the app is on a sticker inside lockers. Unfortunately, the police have had to address addiction at a surprisingly early age. The schools have a schedule to be searched with drug recognition dogs.

“We’re not looking to put kids in jail,” he said. “We want to educate the kids and the parents.”

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To learn more details about Ocean County’s progress in the fighting the opioid crisis, please visit Jersey Shore Online.

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