More than 100 residents recently attended a comprehensive information and education conference on opioid and other drug abuse problems sponsored by the Board of Education and Mayor/State Senator Brian P. Stack.
A panel of 20 experts, including top Federal Health & Human Services officials, addressed the growing opioid crisis and offered valuable information on how parents can detect and treat opioid addiction and other drug abuse issues. The conference was conceived and coordinated by Board of Education Community Relations Director Mercedes Joaquin.
Mayor Stack said communities across America are in the grips of a deadly opioid crisis, and that while Union City doesn’t have a big problem, he is committed to doing everything possible to eradicate opioid and other illegal drugs. “Like all communities, we have a problem and we have to face it,” said the Mayor.
Last year some 64,000 Americans, including approximately 2,200 in New Jersey, died of drug overdoses, mostly due to opioids, and in one week alone in January of this year 54 New Jersey residents succumbed to drug overdoses.
Former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey, who is chairman of the non-profit New Jersey Reentry Corporation, moderated the panel. He told those in attendance that “it isn’t often that you have four high-ranking Federal health officials in your community and that is a testament to their respect for Mayor Stack and his commitment to combating drug abuse.”
Assistant Secretary for Administration at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services John Bardis applauded Union City’s efforts to fight drug abuse.
The grandson of immigrants, Bardis said he understands the concerns of Union City residents. “I am grateful and thankful to you all and what you represent, and what you are doing for your community.”
Police Chief Richard Molinari said that while Union City doesn’t have “open air drug markets, there is a problem.” He noted that strong doses of fentanyl, a synthetic form of heroin, are often being mailed directly to residential homes. “People have to be aware that kids are getting drugs shipped to their homes, and they have to be on the lookout for that,” he added.
The city and the board of education have a wide range of programs and services available to all residents to help fight drug abuse and overdoses. One such program is the non-profit Union City Prevention Coalition, which sends experts to our schools and public events to make people more aware of the dangers of drug abuse, and of the services available to them.
The board of education has a comprehensive program to battle drug abuse, including two Student Assistance Counselors (SACs) who are in the high school and middle schools every day working to help prevent and, if necessary, treat drug addiction and abuse.
The panel also included several medical doctors, nurses and public health officials with expertise in drug treatment, health care officials who deal with these issues every day and representatives of numerous non-profit organizations which work to stop and/or treat drug abuse and addiction.
“I want to thank all of the panelists for taking time out of their busy schedules to participate in this important conference,” said Ms. Joaquin. “We all recognize this is a very important issue and we are doing to continue to inform and educate our residents as much as we can,” she added.
To view more photos of the event, Substance Abuse Seminar Photo Album
A special thanks to UCHS students AOrtiz and JefferyP for taking the photos