Is Jersey’s PR Campaign Actually Fighting the Opioid and Heroin Epidemic?
For the past several months, Gov. Chris Christie has focused his energy and attention on combating New Jersey’s opioid and heron epidemic.
The effort has included numerous appearances at drug clinics and rehabilitation centers around the state, as well as ads on radio, TV and in print.
But is it making a difference?
Last year in Ocean County, there were 209 overdose deaths and 505 naloxone revivals. According to Ocean County Prosecutor Joe Coronato, so far in 2017 the numbers are very similar to where they were at this time last year. He says increasing attention and exposure about the epidemic is vitally important.
“It’s a good strong beginning and I think it shows there are alternatives out there,” he said.
He stressed it took many years for New Jersey’s opioid and heroin addiction problem to spiral out of control, and the problem isn’t going to go away overnight.
“This is a start. It’s a beginning. You’re not going to see any kind of dramatic results in the first two months, three months or maybe even the first year that you do it,” he said. “What you’re really doing is sending out a message that there is help out there, that there are alternatives, and that you can break this cycle — and it’s going to take a while to work its way through the system.”
He says it’s the kind of problem that must addressed like a marathon, not a sprint.
“What you really have to do is take a look at and change the thought process, and I think this is the beginning of the race so to speak," he said.
There may not be much change in the numbers yet, but "if one person gets help and seeks help in an overdose, then I would consider it to still be successful," he said.
The situation is similar in Monmouth County, according to Prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni.
He pointed out for the first four months of 2017 there have been 39 heroin and opioid deaths, while last year the total was 164. So far this year 144 people have been revived with naloxone, while for all of 2016 the total was 424, so the numbers are very similar.
“While the problem hasn’t been solved yet, I see the awareness in my communities," Gramiccioni said. "I see people finally paying attention and realizing yes, this could happen to us, it could happen to our family, our friends, our children or otherwise."
Gramiccioni added, “We have a long way to go to change what’s really killing people in this county, the opioids and heroin deaths."
"They blow out of the water the deaths that we sustain from highway fatalities or homicides or otherwise," he said. "I would just encourage families, especially those with young people to be vigilant.”