The domain name, “itstopsnow.com”, sums up the feelings of the newly created Heroin Opiate Task Force of Mercer County.  In January, a group of like-minded people began discussing a need for a task force to address Mercer County’s heroin/opiate epidemic and decided that such an effort was necessary and overdue.

HOTFMC established the following Mission and Vision…Mission: Significantly reduce Mercer County’s rising heroin/opiate introduction, distribution, addiction, overdose and death rates. Vision: Link our Mercer County community with the various public safety, educational, medical and business entities in a county-wide heroin/opiate awareness effort of education and training.

Dr. Seeta Arjun of In Focus Urgent Care in West Windsor, who has treated young people suffering with substance-use disorders both as an emergency room doctor and in her private practice said, “First, I believe that these deaths are preventable and by implementing the right public awareness initiatives for a disease that is steeped in stigma, we can save lives and second, by knocking down the barriers to treatment access and building on aftercare support as offered by City of Angels, we can rely less on Narcan deployments, as more of these kids enter recovery.”

Members on the Task Force include professionals from the Medical, Public Safety and Treatment fields, as well as residents who are in recovery and residents who volunteer in the recovery field. Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri attended a recent HOTFMC meeting and agreed to do a monthly joint public announcement of Overdose and Narcan Deployment statistics with the Task Force.  “The numbers are real. Overdose deaths are up from 38 in 2014 to 55 in 2015, while there has been over 90 Narcan deployments since November 2014”, added former Hamilton Township Councilman Kevin Meara, who’s son K.C. died of an overdose in 2008.

It is widely reported that for each $1 dollar invested in addiction treatment and education, $4 to $7 dollars are saved in law enforcement and that number rises to over $11 dollars saved when you add in medical costs.  “Look at the impact that Narcan deployment by Police Departments has had on saving lives in Mercer County,” said Robbinsville Police Detective Scott Kivet, who volunteers on the HOTFMC, “and that is why we are looking at other measures that will provide law enforcement with more opportunities to directly impact this epidemic”.

The task force is reviewing an SOP which would employ recovery coaches for DUI and Possession arrests, a program for addicts to turn in their heroin and then access treatment and an initiative of leaving Medicine Drop Box information with residents.

“One of the immediate initiatives that HOTFMC is tackling is assisting Mercer County municipalities with hosting individual RED nights out.  RED stands for Raising and Educating a Drug-free community and promotes an awareness night that enlists the whole community… residents, businesses, BOEs, Law Enforcement and medical entities” concluded Meara.  The Task Force has identified many subjects as possible initiatives to research and discuss with pertinent agencies.

Below is a sampling of those subjects…

R.E.D. Night Out 

R.E.D. Forums for leaders in government, education and medical fields

Expansion of Medicine Drop Boxes in all Mercer municipalities and pharmacies

Narcan save follow-up program in hospitals with recovery coaches

Police Department SOP for DUI and Possession arrests

Police Department Treatment access and drug surrender

Police Department Medicine Drop info initiative at resident homes

Police Academy training

Re-establish Mercer Co TASC program for courts

Addiction related Court Safe-Surrender program

VTC –Veteran Treatment Courts

Parent Panels and Seminars

Peer-based Grass Roots Recovery Centers

Recovery support programs in BOEs

Recovery H.S.

Collegiate Recovery support

Access to Detox/Treatment beds

Access to Sober Living residences

The Heroin / Opiate Task Force of Mercer County is expanding and if you are interested in more information, you can send email to kevinmeara@cityofangelsnj.org or visit our website at www.itstopsnow.com.