SOMERSET COUNTY, NJ – Somerset County authorities will distribute naloxone to local businesses in the Somerset area most affected by opioid overdoses, according to Somerset County Prosecutor John P. McDonald.
“With the increasing impact of the opioid epidemic and the surge of evolving synthetic opioids, the need for the availability of naloxone in the community is imperative,” McDonald said.
The Somerset County Overdose Fatality Review Team (OFRT), in collaboration with Somerset County’s Operation Helping Hand (OHH) and Stigma Free Somerset County, will support local businesses by supplying them with naloxone and opioid education and training, and developing preparedness and confidence should a life-threatening emergency arise.
The OFRT is funded by the Department of Human Services and Somerset County appropriates funds it receives from the State’s Alcohol, Education, Rehabilitation and Enforcement Fund to implement the County’s Comprehensive Plan (CCP) for substance use disorder services. The CCP identifies ways to meet the prevention, early intervention, treatment, and recovery support service needs of Somerset County residents.
Empower Somerset’s mission is to assist individuals and families in making positive lifestyle choices and to promote healthy, drug-free communities through education, collaboration, and connections to resources. Through a competitive bidding process, Empower Somerset was awarded a two-year contract to manage the OFRT services in Somerset County.
In August 2021, Somerset County’s OFRT became fully operational and started conducting case reviews under the management of Empower Somerset and oversight from the Somerset County Department of Human Services. The function of the OFRT involves a series of confidential individual decedent reviews by a multisector and multidisciplinary team. The team’s purpose is to effectively identify system gaps and community-specific overdose prevention and intervention strategies.
Empower Somerset will directly supply and support businesses with naloxone and education as appropriate, McDonald said.
Approximately 90% of case reviews showed that the decedent fatally overdosed while someone else was in the home. This is a startling observation due to the proven effectiveness of naloxone as a harm-reduction strategy. These deaths may have been prevented if naloxone was more readily available in homes and in the community. It was also determined that educating, training, and equipping community members to act swiftly and confidently in a potential overdose situation is a key opportunity to prevent future overdose deaths, McDonald said.
Under Somerset County’s OHH initiative, law enforcement plays an integral part in identifying individuals with substance use disorders and together with community partners serves as a point of entry into treatment and/or recovery support services.
“By conducting door-to-door outreach or by deploying our mobile van, Somerset County’s OHH’s goal is to have law enforcement and recovery support specialists engage residents in need by providing referrals to treatment and other resources. Funding for the OHH program comes from grant funding provided by the New Jersey Office of the Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies (NJ CARES), the Office within the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General that coordinates the addiction-fighting efforts of the Department of Law and Public Safety relating to the opioid epidemic,” McDonald said.
Anyone seeking substance use recovery services should reach out to Somerset County’s OHH by calling 908-393-8888, or visit the Somerset County OHH’s website; or email email@example.com to be connected to services.
The Stigma Free Somerset County initiative exists to reduce harmful stereotypes about mental health and substance use. This is done through community education and awareness and sharing information about resources so that residents and family members do not suffer in silence. The initiative advocates against hate and for increased community cohesion, diversity, and acceptance. For more information on how to get involved contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are a business in Somerset County seeking naloxone kits, training, and education, contact Empower Somerset Kristen Schiro at email@example.com.