UCPO hosting heroin and opioid abuse awareness forum

The Union County Prosecutor’s Office and members of the Fanwood and Scotch Plains police departments will be participating in a community forum next week focused on ways to reverse the growing trend of heroin and opioid abuse in the area, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park, Fanwood Police Chief Richard Trigo, and Scotch Plains Police Chief Ted Conley jointly announced Tuesday.

The forum, “Confronting a Crisis,” is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 24 at the Forest Road Park building in Fanwood. It will include a presentation by the Prosecutor’s Office’s Guns, Gangs, Drugs, and Violent Crimes Task Force, followed by a Q&A involving members of law enforcement.

“This is an issue that absolutely does not discriminate – it is impacting citizens of all ages, races, and backgrounds here in Union County,” Prosecutor Park said. “It has become one of the most pressing public health issues facing our nation today, and we in law enforcement must step up and make the effort to ensure that citizens are well-informed.”  

At least 54 people died due to a fatal overdose in Union County last year, more than in any year since the start of the decade. Police departments countywide started deploying the lifesaving overdose-reversal drug naloxone approximately three years ago, and the number of times it was given to citizens jumped from slightly more than 60 in 2015 up to more than 150 in 2016.

“Heroin and opioid abuse has typically been viewed as someone else’s problem. But that is not the case – it has no boundaries, and it’s now every community’s problem,” Chief Trigo said. “We need to educate the public and confront this problem together.”

“Even my small community is not immune to this national public health crisis; our officers have saved lives right here in Fanwood,” borough Mayor Colleen Mahr added. “I encourage all residents to attend this forum to understand its local effects and how best to identify and avoid opioid abuse.”

“The opioid problem has reached a crisis level. The implementation of Narcan (naloxone) has assisted police and first responders in bringing people back after they have overdosed, but we need to take the next step,” Chief Conley said. “We have to reach people before it is too late so they can get the help that they need. By having programs such as this, we hope that we can take that next step.”

For more information, call Prosecutor’s Office Director of Communications Mark Spivey at 908-527-4621.