Pubdate: Fri, 21 Jul 2017
Source: Herald News (West Paterson, NJ)
Copyright: 2017 North Jersey Media Group Inc.


The national opioid crisis is spreading. Despite increased awareness
of the dangers of abusing prescription drugs, the numbers of
fatalities and overdoses continue to rise. That is too true in Bergen

As Staff Writer Steve Janoski reports, despite the efforts of Bergen
County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal, the county appears on track to
surpass last year's totals of 320 overdoses; 259 of which were opioid
related. Ninety-eight people died. That's an 11 percent increase in
overdoses from 2015 and a 12.6 percent increase in fatalities.

Already in 2017, there have been 244 overdoses, with 206 opioid
related. Fifty-seven people have died this year.

More stunning: According to Grewal, not a day went by in Bergen County
last year where there was not a heroin arrest, an overdose or an
addict revived with the use of the overdose reversal drug commonly
known as Narcan.

Grewal said the rising totals reflect more accurate reporting, but
also more opioid use. This is happening at the same time the county
launched a program called Operation Helping Hand, which tries to
convince drug users to enter a county detox program immediately after
being arrested. Additionally, the Heroin Addiction Recovery Team gives
users the option of going to one of three municipal police stations
where they can clear outstanding warrants, surrender drug
paraphernalia and consult with on-site clinicians and enter a detox
program without being charged.

Gov. Chris Christie has made fighting opioid addiction his signature
issue, and President Donald Trump has named Christie chairman of a
federal commission that will study ways to combat the national crisis.
Christie has said, "Addiction is a disease, and it is a disease that
can be treated. Folks don't want to talk about it . People are afraid
and ashamed to talk about addiction."

The commission is expected to release an interim report at the end of

Still, the Republican House and Senate versions of new health care
plans to replace the Affordable Care Act did not adequately fund
opioid treatment programs. It is unclear how much federal support
there is to do what is needed. It will take more than talk.

More must be done to get addicts into treatment programs rather than
into jail cells, and to clamp down on doctors who write scripts for
unneeded painkillers, too often to student athletes who become hooked
and move on to heroin because it's cheaper and easier to obtain.

And more must be done to stop that flow of cheap heroin into New
Jersey. The rise in overdoses in Bergen County is partly possible
because of the unabated drug traffic in Paterson. So more must be done
to shut down that supply. Make it harder to get heroin. That will not
stop the crisis, but it is foolish not to recognize that the ready
availability of heroin in North Jersey is fuel on a fire.

Grewal's efforts should be commended, as should Christie's. It will
require Democrats, Republicans, parents, friends -- all of us -- to
get involved in stopping the spread of this addiction. Grewal said,
"We just have more to do."

He's so right.
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