Task Force Second Hearing Held at Daytop New Jersey on July 10th
In gripping testimony, Abby Boxman with a framed photo of her son, Justin, in her hands, spoke to the Task Force and nearly one hundred others in attendance. Justin was lost to an overdose a little just over a year ago.
"Nearly everyone I speak to said the same thing. They start with prescription drugs and move on to heroin," Boxman said. "I don't have statistics but this is an epidemic." Boxman has had the support of GRASP (Grief Recovery After Substance Passing) to help her cope with her loss which she recently established a chapter of in Monmouth County.
"I am doing this for my son," Boxman said. "This type of pain I wouldn't wish on anyone. I wouldn't wish this on the worst person in the world."
Recovery and Hope
Emily, a now 20-year-old graduate of Daytop New Jersey, told the Task Force she began taking pills at 14-years-old and quickly transitioned to heroin. "I was digging my own grave, basically. You always try to chase that first high, and you keep moving up and up," Emily said.
Emily said an arrest for heroin possession led her to Daytop where she realized she wanted help. "I was here for almost a full year and it was the best thing that ever happened to me," Emily said. "Treatment works, if you want it, it works." She concluded, "I wake up happy and thankful. I love my life now and I embrace it."
Access to Care and Stigma
The Task Force also heard from Michael and Linda W. of Monmouth County. Linda wrote NJ 101.5 Radio about her 19-year-old opiate addicted son after the station's coverage of the May 29th Task Force hearing. Linda's letter asked 101.5's News Director, Eric Scott, to address her concerns with Governor Christie which Scott did on his monthly program, "Ask the Governor".
They discussed the difficulty they had in getting their son into treatment. Michael told of the difficulty in meeting the criteria for admission. "If my son had cancer, he would be able to get help," Linda said.
Michael spoke of the negative responses he has received by seemingly educated, professional people when they learn of his son's addiction. He stated, ""There is stigma attached to this."
Former deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Dr. Thomas McLellan, told the Task Force that prescription opioid overdose is the number one cause of accidental death in the country, even higher than car accidents, which come in second. He said that prescription opiate abuse is more difficult to combat than abuse of other drugs, "You can't simply say it's illegal when there are very important medical benefits. We need to figure out proper management."
Other witnesses included Hunterdon County Prosecutor Anthony Kearns and Sgt. John Beebe from Sparta, who talked about the threats of prescription painkillers and heroin in their suburban and rural jurisdictions.
"People say we don't have a problem like this in Hunterdon County," Kearns said. "And we do. You don't need to go into an alley or travel into a city to purchase drugs. You can send a text message and have them delivered to your door." He strongly encouraged the Task Force to address this problem aggressively and to involve the law enforcement community in doing so.
Acting Director Eric Kanefsky, NJ Division of Consumer Affairs, also testified about the state's Prescription Monitoring Program. The day concluded with the Task Force receiving public comment during which many members of the public voicing their concerns with the difficulty of getting treatment.
To read additional news coverage of the July 10th Daytop hearing, click here. To read coverage of the May 29th Statehouse hearing please click here.