TO CREATE A COMMUNITY UNITED IN FIGHTING THE HEROIN/OPIATE CRISIS, REDUCING THE STIGMA OF ADDICTION AND PREVENTING OVERDOSE DEATHS.

Community in Crisis was launched in December 2013 following the deaths of two local Basking Ridge young adults just two days apart secondary to drug overdose.

One bitterly cold, gloomy day that December, Jody D’Agostini, a longtime resident of Basking Ridge and active volunteer in the community, received a distraught phone call from her daughter, a college nursing student – both young adults had been close friends of hers. She said, “How many more will we lose before someone does something about it”? She was right. Her haunting words became the driving force of our initiative. We had witnessed countless youth with addiction problems, and the deaths of others. Something had to be done. Would we sit around watching another type of epidemic rise and not be called to action? It was time to help families in need, and reframe thinking to understand that this is a chronic disease that destroys families, emotionally, physically and financially and which requires long term treatment.

Jody, chair of the Board of the Somerset Hills YMCA at that time, approached the Y and asked for their support. Along with multiple other community organizations, the Y has been integral to the success of the work of Community in Crisis.

A task force met with professionals in the field of addiction and studied the epidemic and produced a working, living document, based on the 88 page report from the Governor’s Council on Alcohol and Drug Addiction. It is evidence based, and multi-faceted, involving the entire community.

Community in Crisis formed and is now a group of mental health professionals, police, clergy, health department and municipal alliances, educators, physicians, dentists, community volunteers and more. Bound together with one common goal – to take the stigma out of opiate/heroin addiction, to educate the community on this epidemic and to work to prevent more from going down this path through education and support – Community in Crisis has made great strides.

Its achievements to date are many, and are still forging ahead.

  • One of the first communities to train all of our police in the use of Narcan, (an opioid reversal medication) with supplies available in all first responder vehicles.
  • The local Police Chief created a tri-fold with resources that would be handed out when officers were called to the scene of a drug arrest or overdose.
  • Instituted a bi-weekly parent/family support group for families dealing with drug addiction.
  • Created a resource book which incorporates local options for treatment and support for families trying to navigate confidentially.
  • Partnered with the Bernardsville News to run a column featuring the “40 Developmental Assets” which are essential life skills to strengthen families, and give youth the tools to avoid peer pressure and be educated on healthy life skills.
  • Created 4 anti-drug posters which were placed in local stores and community bulletin boards.
  • Partnered with a local realtor to provide in-home medicine lock boxes and presented at meetings with all the local realtors to educate them on this epidemic, and the importance of safeguarding prescription drugs.
  • Dr. Solhkhah, a statewide authority on the subject, spoke at Morristown Memorial Grand Rounds to educate physicians on the pills to heroin pathway, and encourage safer prescribing habits.
  • Hosted Chris Herren on Dec 17th at the Ridge PAC with almost 1,000 in attendance. Herren is an ex-NBA star who had a heroin addiction and overcame it. He spreads a tale of prevention, education and hope to youth. There are plans underway for a spring return visit and in-school presentations.
  • Currently exploring the possibility of establishing a wellness center which would focus on prevention and recovery support.
  • Held two Town Hall meetings in the community to educate them on this epidemic, and encourage involvement and understanding. A Community Leaders forum is planned for later this month.
  • Secured a DFC mentoring Grant for 2 years.
  • Jody D’Agostini was recognized by Freedom House as Distinguished Citizen of the Year in 2015 for her work combating the opiate epidemic.
  • Produced an anti-drug Public Service Announcement featuring Tobin Heath, local soccer superstar, to be shown in BowTie Cinemas, Bernardsville NJ for 52 weeks.