Camden County unveiled its newly constructed Hope and Remembrance Memorial early last week, a project officials approved early this year to serve as a symbol of hope and opioid awareness.
According to a joint Rutgers-Eagleton/Fairleigh Dickinson University poll last year, roughly a quarter of state residents or their family members have taken a prescription opioid painkiller in the past 12 months, while seven out of 10 respondents rated prescription painkiller use a serious problem in their community.
The memorial, constructed in Timber Creek Park in Gloucester Township, features a giant purple ribbon, the universal symbol for opioid addiction awareness, surrounded by a spiraling, sloped wall with benches nearby for seated reflection. The memorial is just another step in the direction of addressing opioid addiction within Camden County, according to Jeff Nash.
“We want to offer a place for reflection to the families who live in or are visiting Camden County that lost a loved one to an opioid use disorder,” Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, Jr. said about the project after its approval in February.“We want them to feel like their lives have been honored properly.
“If this memorial can start a conversation between two people about opioid use or about the stigma surrounding this disease, then that alone makes the entire project worth it,” he added. “We want to show people that they’re not alone and that our community is facing this epidemic together.”
During a recent ceremony at the memorial in honor of International Overdose Awareness Day, Nash echoed the sentiment that Camden County is committed to addressing the disease.
“If there is life, there is hope. And our goal in Camden County is to raise the awareness of the disease of addiction,” Nash noted.
The significance of the memorial’s placement within Gloucester Township cannot be understated, as the township police department and the municipality itself have worked on addressing opioid addiction over the past several years. The police department’s Project SAVE connects low-level drug offenders with counselors and other officials to prevent addictions from becoming more serious, and had done so for years before the county piloted the program in all interested municipalities.
The creation of the Addiction Awareness Task Force in Camden County has also addressed the opioid issue and has publicly raised awareness that it hopes can help reduce and eliminate the stigma associated with addiction.
Gloucester Township Mayor David R. Mayer was in attendance of the memorial unveiling ceremony and said afterward that the township was more than excited to have such an important fixture in the municipality.
“We’re proud of the partnership we have with the freeholder board,” Mayer noted. “Project SAVE has been really instrumental in helping people across the county, and a lot of help we’ve been able to offer in recent years has come from that program.
“It is our intention that this provides hope for those that are struggling and family members of those that have battled or still are battling with addiction.”
Camden County officials earlier this year said the project was anticipated to cost approximately $437,000 that would come from the county’s capital funds.