Congressmen lead panel on opioid abuse

08 Aug 2018 | 01:11

On Aug. 3, Democratic Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and Republican Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-8) brought together first responders, doctors, religious leaders, local elected officials, and community leaders at Newton Medical Center for a roundtable on working together to combat the opioid crisis and bring more resources to local communities.
Gottheimer and Fitzpatrick were joined by community leaders including Sussex County First Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Mueller, Newton Medical Center President Joseph DiPaolo, Newton Medical Center Behavioral Health Director Loriann Rizzuto, Newton Medical Center Dr. AJ Brutico, Newton Police Department Chief Mike Richards, CLEAR Executive Director Becky Carlson, CLEAR Dr. Mike Ganon, Christ Church Father Robert Griner, VA New Jersey Health Care System Social Worker Denise Dickinson, The Center for Prevention & Counseling’s Rachel Wallace, The Medicine Shop’s Tony Coppola, Andover Township Mayor Janis McGovern, Andover Borough Mayor John Morgan, Fredon Township Mayor Keith Smith, Sussex County Freeholder Sylvia Petillo, and Sparta Township Chief of Police Neil Spidaletto.
“No community is immune to the opioid crisis ravaging America’s families. New Jersey — and particularly Sussex County — are no exception. So far this year, according to an analysis of data from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, more than 1,600 people have died of drug overdoses — an average of more than eight New Jersey residents per day. In Sussex County alone, between 2013 and 2016, overdose deaths increased by nearly 200 percent. This problem isn’t going away,” Gottheimer said. “Fortunately, we are making progress, thanks in part to groups like the Sussex County Community Law Enforcement Addiction Recovery (C.L.E.A.R.) Program, which just celebrated its second anniversary of helping those struggling with addiction seek help without fear of prosecution. Working together is the only way to beat this epidemic once and for all, which is why I want to thank Congressman Fitzpatrick and the Sussex County doctors, first responders, religious leaders, community leaders, and local elected officials who joined me at Newton Medical Center to share best practices and discuss solutions. We live in the greatest country in the world, and I know that, by coming together, we can solve this crisis.”
“The United States represents less than 10 percent of the world’s population, and yet we consume over 70 percent of the world’s opioid supply. If that’s not a red flag for a problem, I don’t know what is,” Fitzpatrick said. “There’s so many different pieces to this puzzle. There are many different pressure points. But the good thing about being here — about having all stakeholders be at the table — is that this is where the problems get solved.”
In 2017, Gottheimer announced a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for $13 million dollars to improve New Jersey’s response to the state’s opioid epidemic. This year, the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus supported and helped pass the Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues Act of 2017 (SITSA) to give law enforcement the tools necessary to crack down on the distribution of synthetic drugs like fentanyl. Gottheimer also supported several bipartisan bills this summer that Congress passed to establish demonstration programs for alternative pain management protocols, to establish comprehensive opioid recovery centers, and to strengthen the FDA’s ability to detain, refuse, and destroy substances identified through international mail facilities, especially as more heroin and fentanyl comes in through China.