Newark woman Christine Powell has been sentenced after admitting to trying to use falsified prescriptions to obtain large quantities of high-dose oxycodone pills at a Linden pharmacy late last year, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo and Linden Police Chief David Hart jointly announced Monday. Powell, 60, was ordered to serve two years of probation, to be followed by six months in the Union County Jail, according to the terms set by Union County Superior Court Judge Robert Kirsch.
The matter is the result of an investigation by the Linden Police Department, which determined that, in late 2019, Powell attempted to obtain a total of ninety 30-mg oxycodone pills at a CVS in Linden on two separate occasions, using fraudulent prescriptions. As a result, Powell was charged with third-degree forgery and third-degree attempting to obtain a controlled dangerous substance by fraud. She pleaded guilty to the former charge, on Tuesday, July 21, 2020.
The sentence comes amidst an opioid epidemic that appears to have only been exacerbated by COVID-19. Indeed, in Union County, a total of 75 suspected drug overdose deaths occurred during the first half of 2020, putting the county on pace to eclipse its single-year record total of 131 in 2018. More than 600 people have died due to a drug overdose in the county since the start of 2015, with more than 100 deaths recorded in each of the last three full calendar years.
Under the leadership of Prosecutor Ruotolo, the Prosecutor’s Office has taken great strides to address the issue, most notably in January 2020, when Ruotolo and New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal jointly announced the launch of Operation Helping Hand 24/7/365. Through that program, Union County became the first county in the state to directly connect all suspects arrested for low-level possessory drug offenses involving heroin or opioids with comprehensive rehabilitative services.
Moreover, since 2015, patrol officers in law enforcement agencies across Union County have been equipped with the lifesaving drug naloxone, deploying it more than 1,000 times to citizens in the throes of a drug overdose, including more than 140 times so far in 2020. Approximately 95 percent of recipients of the police-administered naloxone survive.
Anyone suffering from opioid addiction is urged to contact Prevention Links, at 732-381-4100, or the Union County Operation Helping Hand 24/7/365 hotline, at 1-855-825-3275, to be put in touch with a peer recovery specialist.