Opioid epidemic symposiums at three Sussex County locations

Public health. Opioid Epidemic Symposiums will be held three high schools in Sussex County on Oct. 17, 23, and 28, 2019. The free sessions will address drug overdose crisis and where to go for help.

07 Oct 2019 | 01:31

The Sussex County Department of Health and Human Services will present three Opioid Epidemic Symposiums this month at local high schools.

These symposiums will help people know what to do and where to go in the case of an overdose emergency, said Freeholder Deputy Director, Sylvia Petillo who serves as Liaison to the Sussex County Department of Health and Human Services.

“A friend called me in the middle of the night and told me that her daughter overdosed and that she wanted a Christian, longterm recover place,” Petillo said. “I exhausted all of my contacts and finally found the girls a bed in Alabama. This took three weeks. During that time, the girl decided that she didn't need that type of long term council. That delay gave her time to rethink her recovery and choose to be in and out of outpatient counseling. One year later, she died of an overdose.”

Petillo said that these symposiums and county programs including Community Law Enforcement Addiction Recovery (C.L.E.A.R.) stress the importance that treatment is found immediately.

“When they're ready to go, you've got to be ready to go,” she said. “When an overdose happens, most people are in shock. They become confused and desperate and most have no ideas of the resources available to them in Sussex County.”

Other agencies present will include The Center for Prevention and Counseling.

"Our Opioid Overdoes Recovery Program offers 24/7 services to those in need and our Community Recovery Center is open 6 days a week to bring programs and assistance to individuals and families and we will be at the symposium to share more details of our many programs," said Tina Aue, Director of Prevention Services.

Sussex County's proximity to urban areas where many drugs are easily available is a challenge, said Newton Police Chief Michael Richards.

“If we reduce demand for illicit drugs, with programs such as CommunityLaw Enforcement Addiction Recovery (CLEAR), while continuing prevention and enforcement efforts, we can turn the tide, reduce overdose deaths and improve public safety and quality of life in Sussex County," he said. "To be most effective, however, we need our neighboring counties to have similar programs in place and we need to reduce availability and access to opioids in our region.”

Despite ongoing efforts to increase awareness of the dangers of opioids, there are a lot of other issues competing for the attention of our residents, Chief Richards said.

“Unfortunately, too many only become aware how serious the problem is after they have someone in their family experience it," he said. "Symposiums help raise awareness, improve prevention and provides information on resources for those affected.

He said that law enforcement's involvement is both a public health and public safety issue. Chief Richards said statistics show that Sussex County has more of a demand than supply problem.Nick Loizzi, coordinator of the Office of Substance Abuse and Alcohol will host the symposium. There will be a mock bedroom, to educate parents about where children tend to hid drugs and alcohol.

Treatment providers and prevention agencies will showcase the services they offer, the local Municipal Alliance Committees will also be on hand to discuss their programs and recruit new members. Loizzi announce Sussex County's new Overdose Fatality Review Team,which will include Sussex County Department of Health and Human Services, the Medical Examiner's Office, Newton Medical Center, the Sussex County Prosecutor, local police departments, EMS squads, area treatment and prevention providers, and families of the deceased.

“Over the last couple of years, I've had so many people stop me on the street, in a store or call me at home and tell me about a situation involving an overdose usually involving their children,” Petillo said. “Usually when an overdose happens people receive a dreadful call, are in shock and don't know where to go.”

“You can't blame yourself when an overdose happens," Richards said. "Nobody is alone and we, as a community, are fighting this."

Doors will open at each of the three symposiums at 6 p.m. and will commence at 7 p.m. on Oct. 17 at Newton High School, and on Oct. 23, at Wallkill Valley Regional High School and On Oct. 28 at Lenape Valley Regional High School. Light refreshments will be served and attendance is free of charge. No registration is required.

For information about the symposiums or substance abuse prevention, contact Mr. Loizzi at the Office of Substance Abuse and Alcohol by calling (973) 9405200, ext. 1383 or via email at nloizzi@sussex.nj.us. C.L.E.A.R. Offers a list of walkin help sites on its web page at: http://clearprogram.org/gettinghelp/.

Symposium Schedule
Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019
Newton High School
44 Ryerson Ave
Newton, NJ
Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019
Wallkill Valley Regional High School
10 Grumm Road
Hamburg, NJ
Monday, Oct. 28, 2019
Lenape Valley Regional High School
28 Sparta Rd
Stanhope, NJ