New Jersey Communities Respond to Overdoses

New Jersey State Police said a bad batch of heroin sold in packaging labeled with a Batman stamp led to 49 overdoses in Camden during a six-day period in August, according to a warning issued by New Jersey State Police.

All of the patients were taken to Cooper University Hospital where they were revived, and no deaths were reported, according to NJ.com.

In a post on the department’s official Facebook page, New Jersey State Police wrote that “Although every dose of heroin is potentially lethal, the NJ Regional Operations and Intelligence Center (Rock) has identified a brand of heroin stamp labeled, Batman, as being associated with overdoses.”

Authorities have not confirmed the potency of the drug or whether it was laced with more potent narcotics such as fentanyl or carfentanil. Other communities have been devastated by large numbers of overdoses stemming from laced heroin.

In Cincinnati, a medical examiner wondered whether drug dealers were experimenting with carfentanil, a drug used in elephant tranquilizers, after nearly 200 people overdosed on heroin in a one-week period.

A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent told NJ.com that New Jersey State Police is still waiting for lab results. The Courier-Post reported that the Batman-labeled heroin was being handed out for free, leading to speculation that dealers may be testing the potency of the drug on consumers.

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Law enforcement seized other packages of heroin stamped with Batman logos in nearby towns including Runnemede, Mount Ephraim and Gloucester City. The drug was also spotted in other parts of New Jersey in Galloway and Williamstown, according to the Courier-Post.

Nearly one week after the outbreak began, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded the state $7.6 million to prevent and treat problems stemming from opioid addiction. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent data, 1,253 people died from a drug overdose in New Jersey in 2014.

Washington Township Hosts Vigil for Overdose Victims

In nearby Gloucester County, hundreds of friends and family members met at James G. Atkinson Memorial Park on International Overdose Awareness Day, Aug. 31, to honor and remember those who died from drug overdoses.

The candlelight vigil was held to remember more than 100 New Jersey residents who died in recent years, but it was also a platform for speakers to raise awareness about addiction. Local experts offered resources for individuals battling addiction and family members looking for help.

Jim Jefferson, the head of Health and Human Services in Gloucester County, spoke about ending the stigma associated with addiction to create a supportive and safe environment.

Jefferson is the head of the Gloucester County Addictions Task Force, which was launched at the beginning of August. The task force is an opportunity for residents, health officials, experts and lawmakers to work together to address addiction in the county.

Federal Government Grants New Jersey $7.6M to Combat Addiction

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services, awarded New Jersey $6.9 million to combat prescription drug abuse, reduce overdose deaths and expand access to naloxone kits.

About $1.9 million will be used to raise awareness about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and to track prescription drugs using the state’s prescription drug monitoring program. The other $5 million will be distributed in $1 million increments during each of the next five years to fund trainings and distribution of naloxone.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also awarded the New Jersey Department of Health more than $700,000 to analyze data, plan prevention activities and improve the prevention monitoring program.

New Jersey’s funds were part of $53 million in funding that SAMHSA announced it would distribute to 44 states, four tribes and the District of Columbia.

New Jersey’s funding comes from three federal grants:

  1. The Prescription Drug Opioid Overdose Prevention Grant
  2. The Strategic Prevention Framework Partnerships for Prescription Drugs Grant
  3. The Prescription Drug Overdose: Data-Driven Prevention Initiative

In a press release, SAMHSA Principal Deputy Administrator Kana Enomoto said opioids have shattered individuals and communities nationwide.

“These grants will help address the key elements of the opioid crisis by promoting effective prevention efforts, preventing overdose deaths and helping ensure that people with opioid use disorders are able to receive vital treatment and recovery support services,” Enomoto said.

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