Renowned experts in the fields of drug policy, substance abuse prevention and treatment, and law enforcement shared their insights regarding the challenges today’s youth face as part of the Annual Professional Fall Conference presented by the Safe Communities Coalition of Hunterdon/Somerset (Coalition) and Hunterdon Prevention Resources (HPR).
“This year we were very fortunate to have a great combination of local and national experts who conveyed their thoughts and expertise on the escalating drug problem on a local, state and national level,” said Jerri Collevechio, HPR Senior Director and Conference Coordinator. “The presenters also outlined plans and techniques to help decrease the flow and use of prescription drugs, heroin and more potent forms of marijuana among the youth and adult populations.”
The Conference was held on Thursday, November 12, at Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC). The event was attended by more than 130 parents, school administrators, student assistance counselors, guidance counselors and school nurses, as well as local government officials, law enforcement and prevention/treatment professionals, who listened to presentations that were intended to help children navigate safely through their adolescent, teen and young adult years. The Conference was presented in collaboration with the Hunterdon County Municipal Alliance and RVCC.
Hunterdon County Prosecutor Anthony P. Kearns III and Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey D. Soriano opened the morning session by sharing their views on the heroin epidemic in both counties, and the effective use of Narcan to reverse the effects of heroin overdoses. Following their opening remarks, guest speakers provided conference attendees with educational and action-oriented information on heroin, opioid and marijuana abuse, and how coalitions are addressing these issues across the country:
- John J. Hoffman, Acting New Jersey Attorney General (AG), who served as the Keynote Speaker, detailed the New Jersey Heroin Initiative, which he said has four guiding principles. “We need to be smart, aggressive, opportunistic and compassionate toward those suffering from addiction,” explained AG Hoffman. He said “it is not purely a law enforcement issue, it needs to be an integrated holistic approach.” AG Hoffman also touched on the NJ Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, a Pain Management Initiative, and the use and training of Narcan among law enforcement personnel throughout the state.
- Helen Hernandez, Administrator for the Drug Free Communities (DFC), White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, spoke about the White House Administration’s DFC support program for approximately 700 communities and coalitions throughout the United States. “Local problems require local solutions,” said Hernandez. “Therefore, through the DFC program, we are focusing on strengthening community collaboration and changing the environment to reduce substance abuse among our youth populations.”
- Jermaine Galloway, a Boise Idaho police officer, also known as the “Tall Cop,” presented High in Plain Sight. Officer Galloway is a nationally recognized drug awareness instructor, well known for his research on alcohol and drug trends. Galloway cautioned attendees to take a closer look for potential signs of drug use, such as logos and other “seemingly innocent” images on hats and clothing. He also explained and illustrated though photos and videos the process of extracting THC oil from raw marijuana, also known as “dabbing.” According to Galloway the dabbing process, which produces an odorless waxy substance, is done using butane lighters and increases the potency of THC from 15% to roughly 70 – 80%. Galloway also highlighted the use of vape pens, synthetic designer drugs and other potential dangers facing youth today, including electronic dance music festivals which often promote the use of designer drugs such as “Molly.”
The afternoon session of the Conference featured a panel of experts from prevention, treatment and law enforcement who fielded questions about the Heroin Crisis in New Jersey, and the use of Narcan, the antidote for heroin overdose victims. The panel was moderated by Karen A. Widico, HPR Co-Executive Director, and was comprised of the following experts:
- Anthony P. Kearns, III, Hunterdon County Prosecutor
- Michael McLaughlin, Somerset County Assistant Prosecutor
- Lorin Gaffen, LPC, LCADC
- Officer Richard Ozieblo, Manville Borough Police Department
- Patrolman Frank Emanuele, Borough of Flemington Police Department
Panelists discussed the Overdose Prevention Act, also known as the Good Samaritan law, which provides immunity from prosecution to anyone in need of medical care due to a drug overdose. “The Safe Communities Coalition has been on the forefront in support of the Overdose Prevention Act,” said Lesley Gabel, HPR Co-Executive Director and Project Director for the Coalition. “We also were instrumental in getting the first permanent Rx drop box installed at the Hunterdon County Justice Center. There are now 12 in our region for Hunterdon and Somerset counties.” The Coalition has also been working with the hospitals, pharmacies and hospice in an attempt to keep unused prescription medications from falling into the hands of our youth.
Caption: Notable attendees to the Fall Conference presented by the Safe Communities Coalition of Hunterdon/Somerset and
Hunterdon Prevention Resources included, from left to right, HPR Co-Executive Director Karen A. Widico; New Jersey Senator Christopher ‘Kip’ Bateman;
Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey D. Soriano; New Jersey Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman; Helen Hernandez, Administrator for the Drug Free Communities,
White House Office of the National Control Policy; Hunterdon County Prosecutor Anthony P. Kearns III; and Lesley Gabel, HPR Co-Executive Director.
Caption: Hunterdon County Prosecutor Anthony P. Kearns III (left) and Somerset County
Assistant Prosecutor Michael McLaughlin acted as panelists in the afternoon session of the Fall Conference
presented by the Safe Communities Coalition of Hunterdon/Somerset and Hunterdon Prevention Resources.
About Hunterdon Prevention Resources: Hunterdon Prevention Resources supports the health and wellness of individuals, families, and the communities we serve by providing education, counseling, advocacy for policies, and collaboration necessary to keep our communities healthy and drug free. For confidential help or for services or programs, contact us at 908-782-3909. For more information on the organization, visit us online at www.hunterdonprevention.com. Also, Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HPRNJ.
About the Safe Communities Coalition: The goal of the Safe Communities Coalition is to live in a safe and healthy community by eliminating drug use, underage drinking and prescription drug abuse. Through wide-spread community collaboration, environmental change, and community education in Hunterdon and Somerset counties, the Safe Communities Coalition will address areas of concern including, but not limited to, reducing Rx drug abuse across the lifespan, underage drinking, tobacco, marijuana, heroin, and other drug use. For more information on the Coalition, visit our website at www.safecoalition.org or follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SafeCommunitiesCoalition, Twitter @HSCoKnowINFO or Instagram at safe_communities.
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