By the time Morgan Thompson graduated high school, she started using heroin, and from there her addiction took off.
“I don’t think people pick up on the early signs of addiction. I probably needed treatment when I was 13-years-old,” said Thompson. “It just got harder and harder to keep that double life going, and I went into treatment in 2009. I was very lucky to have a supportive family.”
It’s been almost nine years since she stopped using drugs, and now her mission working at Prevention Links is to help put an end to a growing opioid crisis.
According to provisional data from the CDC, New Jersey saw 2,284 drug overdose deaths from July 2016 to July 2017, an almost 35 percent increase. Only four other states saw greater increases.
“I think [it’s here] in part because we have some of the purest heroin in the nation, especially here in the Elizabeth and Newark Port. There’s a lot of drug trafficking that comes through this area, New York, New Jersey. So it’s readily available, it’s inexpensive and it’s very strong,” said Pamela Capaci, CEO of Prevention Links.
In October, the president declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, and last month the Department of Health and Human Services extended the declaration.
President Trump addressed the issue at the White House Opioid Summit on Thursday.
“We’re going to have to be very strong on penalties. Hopefully, we can do some litigation against the opioid companies. I think it’s very important,” Trump said.
Earlier this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Justice Department would be supporting one of the states filing a lawsuit against an opioid manufacturer.
“A lot of damage is already done and there’s a real need for investment in treatment and recovery,” said Thompson.
Capaci says they’ve been able to launch some of the programs out of their center because of funding from the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which was signed into law in 2016 by former President Obama. It’s a way to authorize federal funds to be given to states for prevention, education, and treatment against the opioid epidemic.
“We launched a program here in our community where people can walk into certain police stations and ask for assistance, as opposed to getting arrested,” said Capaci.
And earlier this month, Congress allocated $6 billion over two years to fund the fight.
“You better believe that I’m going to fight as hard as I can to bring much of that funding to New Jersey so that organizations like Prevention Links can save as many lives as they can,” said Sen. Bob Menendez.
Morgan Thompson told the crowd let her story serve as an example of what’s possible.