Task Force Proposes Plan to Combat Heroin Addiction

By Brenda Flanagan

“The parents are buying coffins and burial plots,” said Kass Foster.

That’s why Foster and other moms whose kids died from drug overdoses gladly welcomed the new report from a special task force — an unflinching look at New Jersey’s heroin and opiate addiction epidemic with a plan of action.

“We need help. The parents are out there, fighting, but we need more than that,” Foster said.

“In this report, there’s a lot of dark stuff, there’s a lot of tragedy. But this report is really about hope,” said Kevin Meara.

The report notes, from 2010 to 2012 drug-related deaths in New Jersey jumped 53 percent to almost 1,300 lives lost. That year, drug treatment centers admitted more than 8,300 patients. Half of the opiate-addiction admissions were 25 years old or younger.

“We’re burying them rather than treating them, you know? They don’t belong in jail. They belong in treatment,” said Kathleen Dobbs, parent of an addicted son.

Kass’ son, Christian, was on a waiting list.

“He died on a neighbor’s lawn and he laid there for six hours and no one called 911,” Kass said. “I do miss him. But his strong spirit is alive inside of me.”

The report features stories about Chris and other young overdose victims.

1) Require New Jersey physicians to closely track and monitor prescription painkillers, which often lead to cheap heroin addiction;
2) Educate professionals and implement a strategic public awareness program;
3) Encourage insurers to cover the long-term treatment heroin addicts often require;
4) Build more treatment centers.

The report states that a lot of kids fall back off the wagon as soon as they go back to school. So one suggestion is to create high schools just for recovering addicts.

“That doesn’t mean they’re gonna stay clean, but at least they’ll be in an environment where being clean and being sober is something that people pay attention to,” said Task Force, Heorin & Opiate Use’s Paul Ressler.

The Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse accepted the report with the understanding money’s tight.

“That’s my concern. There’s money for funding for drug court, there’s money for jails, but there’s no money for treatment centers,” said Tonia Ahern, parent of an addicted son.

And that’s the bottom line.