Opiate and Heroin Epidemic

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Morris County Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp and Rockaway Borough Police Chief Doug Scheer announce that the Community Outreach Program concerning the Opiate and Heroin epidemic was productive and educational. The event was a joint effort by the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office and the Rockaway Borough Police Department to provide valuable information to the community. Held at the Morris Hills High School in Rockaway, New Jersey on Tuesday June 7, 2016 from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm, the audience, consisting of many concerned residents and those affected by the epidemic, was captivated by what they heard.

Rockaway Borough Police Chief Doug Scheer opened the event with passionate remarks about the epidemic, and how the community of Rockaway Borough has been affected. Chief Scheer was followed by Morris County Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp.

Prosecutor Knapp conveyed that, as with many counties throughout New Jersey, Morris County has been adversely affected by the Opiate and Heroin epidemic. He emphasized that the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office is aggressively pursuing “For-Profit” distributers of Opiates and Heroin with vigorous prosecution and incarceration. Moreover, Prosecutor Knapp is a proponent of intervention and treatment for the nonviolent drug addicted user, rather than incarceration. He agrees that addiction is a disease that many people suffer from and should be treated as such. Lastly, Prosecutor Knapp discussed the relatively new introduction of Narcan, which is now supplied to first responders as a life saving measure, for use on those who overdose on Opiates or Heroin and face imminent death. Narcan reverses the effect of the overdose on the body, and since its implementation in Morris County, has resulted in 44 lives saved by police officers during 2015. Unfortunately, during that same year, 43 people lost their lives due to an Opiate overdose.

A PowerPoint presentation was given by Morris County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Brad Seabury. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seabury is in charge of the “Special Operations Division”, which focuses on illegal drug trafficking. He has been prosecuting narcotics cases for nearly ten (10) years and is a wealth of knowledge on the topic.

The presentation shed light on the epidemic and how the use of Opiates typically begins. Often times a physical injury will lead to the use of legally prescribed pain killers which are commonly Opiate-based. Depending on the individual and the duration of the medicinal use, addiction may occur. When the legally prescribed medication is exhausted, the person may move on to illegally-sold Opioid-based prescription medication that can be very expensive. Many times, Heroin will follow because of its cheap price and availability. Due to the debilitating effects, Opiate addicts will often lose their employment and resort to crime to “feed” their habit. Crimes may range from petty thefts to burglaries to robberies. Opiate and Heroin addiction does not discriminate. It affects those of all ages, socioeconomic status, gender, race and ethnicity. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seabury also provided some alarming statistics including that the United States consists of about 4.6% of the world’s population, but consumes 80% of the world’s Opioids and 99% of the world’s hydrocodone, the Opiate that is in Vicodin. Unfortunately, drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seabury stressed to the audience that we as a community need to work together to combat this epidemic. He explained that law enforcement needs to tackle this epidemic as part of its life saving mission and to seek rehabilitation for drug addicted offenders as a strategy to reduce overall crime in the County. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seabury is also encouraged by the growing partnerships law enforcement is making with rehabilitation groups to assist in the overall crime reducing strategy.

Tara Barnard was a guest speaker for the event and spoke passionately about her brother Anthony’s fight with Opiate and Heroin addiction, and the family’s struggle to help him get help. The talk was actually a walk through his life in both his eyes, and the eyes of the family as he fought hard with the struggle with the addiction, the difficulties with getting treatment, and eventually the struggle to stay clean. While he may have lost his fight at the age of 28, his desire to beat addiction is carrying on through the family as they have spoken in front of Congress to move the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and have it signed into law. Their hard work and efforts to help others did not go unnoticed by those in attendance and was a true inspiration to many who face the struggle with Opiate addiction every day. It is his story that reinforces the work that must be done on all fronts to address this epidemic and support the families as they continue their fight.

Among numerous other drug addiction intervention and recovery organizations, representatives from “CARES” and “Morris County Prevention is Key” were present to speak with those addicted to Opiates and their family members. Also, volunteers whose lives have been touched by Opiate addiction were present and available for one-on-one discussions before and after the event. Representatives from Rockaway Township Police, Wharton Police, Denville Police and Rockaway Borough Police were also present during the event.

Prosecutor Knapp and Chief Scheer urge everyone to discard old or unused medication in one of the many drop boxes located throughout Morris County. For a list of locations,
please log on to http://safehealthymorris.org/dropbox/.
Due to environmental concerns, please avoid flushing medications in the toilet or discarding them in the regular garbage.

Inquiries concerning this Media Release should be directed to Agent Paul Merkler at [email protected] or 973-285-6215.