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May 17, 2018

NJTV’s Newark Drug Forum Features Hard Discussions on Opioid Abuse & Treatment

NJTV News Correspondent Michael Hill moderates panel featuring Stephen Stirling, Joel Torres, Jim McGreevey, Robert J. Budsock, Sue A. Seidenfeld

Last Thursday, NJTV hosted a Healthy NJ Community forum around the state’s Drug Addiction Crisis in Newark. About 40 people attended the forum at the Metropolitan Baptist Church, with more than 160 others viewing via livestream. It was moderated by NJTV News Correspondent Michael Hill, and featured panelists Jim McGreevey, Former New Jersey Governor and Chairman of the Board, New Jersey Reentry Corporation; Stephen Stirling, NJ Advance Media Reporter; Sue A. Seidenfeld, MS, LCADC, CCS, COPE Center Inc., Executive Director; Joel Torres, MA, MCHES, ADAPT Manager, Family Connections; and Robert J. Budsock, President and CEO, Integrity House.

They were joined by experts-on-hand Rev. John Williford, Associate Minister, Metropolitan Baptist Church; Pamela Taylor, NJ Connect for Recovery Line Coordinator; Christopher Jakim, Assistant Special Agent In Charge, Drug Enforcement Authority New Jersey Division/NJ High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Commander; Roberto Nelson Alvarez, MSW/LSW, Coordinator of Monitoring and Evaluation Essex County Community Health Service Office of Alcohol, Drug Abuse & Addiction Services; and Eileen Fishman, Deputy Director Community Health at Essex County Department of Community Health.

Expert-on-hand Rev. John Williford, Associate Minister, Metropolitan Baptist Church, discusses the role the faith community can play in the addiction crisis.

The two-hour forum spoke about addiction through the lens of New Jersey’s most populated city, Newark, while also speaking to the state-at-large’s heroin, opioid and prescription drug abuse epidemic from an array of angles: the latest challenges and achievements in countering addiction, prescription medication protocol, law enforcement, the correlation between addiction and mental illness, racial disparity, prevention and treatment and approaches and how faith-based organizations can play a role in treatment/recovery. ICYMI, watch the archived livestream HERE.

McGreevey spoke to the rising concern of fentanyl, the powerful and cheap synthetic that’s lacing the heroin of unsuspecting clientele. Seidenfeld brought up the complications added to the issue by the connection of mental illness and addiction. Torres pointed out one aspect of New Jersey’s drug crisis not being addressed in the treatment program: triggers for relapse. For example, if someone goes back to the same environment in which they were abusing drugs, it makes relapse more likely. Stirling spoke to Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) that help tally opioid prescriptions. “If you don’t know the extent of a problem, how do you know how to fix it?” he said. Reverend Williford explained the balance between faith-based organizations’ role as community resource for addiction and religion. He noted the importance of “turning from religion to relationships” and the need to “shy away from Christian-ese” and getting to know the person to get them healthy.

Panelists answer questions from Sam Robertson, a member of the audience.

The need for ongoing recovery support was also stressed in the panel discussion. Said Budsock, “When you’re working with a chronic illness it’s important that you stay connected with the individual and that you continue to provide the support for as long as necessary. If that support needs to be for one year, it’ll be one year. If it needs to be three years, it will be three years. Similar to someone that’s receiving treatment for diabetes.”

Informational tables sharing resources on various aspects of addiction were set up around the room by organizations such as Agencies from the County of Essex – Office of Addiction and Essex County Department of Community Health, ADAPT – Alcohol & Drug Prevention, NJ Connect for Recovery, Greater Newark Area of Narcotics Anonymous and New Jersey Reentry Corporation.

NJTV News broadcast this story about the forum and the issue the following day.

This is NJTV’s sixth event in its Healthy NJ: New Jersey’s Drug Addiction Crisis initiative started in 2016 with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It combines livestreamed town hall forums with a robust website of addiction-related resources. NJTV’s Healthy NJ: New Jersey’s Drug Addiction Crisis initiative has been made possible with major funding by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and additional support from the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. This latest forum was made possible by the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey.

NJTV News Correspondent Michael Hill along with panelists and experts-on-hand Christopher Jakim, Pamela Taylor, Joel Torres, Stephen Stirling, Eileen Fishman, Roberto Nelson Alvarez, Sue A. Seidenfeld, Robert J. Budsock, Jim McGreevey and Rev. John Williford

NJTV Intern Ana Luiza Teodoro at the Forum registration table

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