Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in New Jersey. The statistics are truly alarming: according to New Jersey’s public television network, the rate of heroin overdose in New Jersey is three times the national average, with almost 14,000 deaths from drug overdose since 2004. In the last decade alone, admission to drug treatment programs has risen 700 percent.
Perhaps no one is more familiar with the devastating effects of addiction on a local community than Voorhees resident Gregg Wolfe, who lost his 21-year-old son Justin to a fatal heroin overdose. A 2009 graduate of Eastern Regional High School, Justin was a student at Temple University when he lost his battle with addiction in 2012.
“Many people are in denial and don’t realize or don’t know—as I did not—the demons of addiction and opiate and heroin abuse that are rampant in our community,” Wolfe said.
After Justin’s death, at the lowest point in his life, Wolfe reached out to Samost Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Southern New Jersey for support. He recalls, “I was received with love, caring, emotional guidance and a familial sense of security. I was awestruck by the wealth of services JFCS so willingly offers to those who are in dire need of support. I have been a volunteer, board member and advocate ever since.”
Right In Our Backyard, an addiction awareness and prevention program for suburban teens and parents, was created as a direct result of this initial connection between Wolfe and JFCS. Since its inception in 2014, this powerful outreach presentation has reached over 3,500 young people through 40 presentations in schools, houses of worship, libraries, and community centers. With the support of Wolfe, the agency has recently expanded its reach with the development of Addiction: Families in it Together, a support group for family members of loved ones who are struggling with addiction.
“I am truly inspired by Gregg,” said JFCS Executive Director Marla Meyers. “His passion guides his actions, and his tireless efforts with Right In Our Backyard have helped to ensure that many children and parents will never have to experience the devastating loss of a child to drug addiction.”
Parents and community members are invited to join Wolfe in honoring Justin’s legacy at the 7th Annual Justin Wolfe Memorial Benefit on Sunday, June 2 at Adelphia Restaurant in Deptford. The event will feature legendary Philadelphia sportscaster Don Tollefson, who will share his own story of addiction, recovery, and hope.
Each $65 ticket includes a buffet dinner, two drinks, and musical entertainment. All proceeds from the event will directly benefit Right In Our Backyard and Addiction: Families In It Together.
Tickets are available at www.justinforjustice.org/tickets. To learn more about JFCS addiction awareness and prevention programs, please contact Meredith Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.jfcssnj.org/rightinourbackyard.