Prosecutors join in fight to curb opioid abuse

Initiative is a partnership between Salem, Cumberland, Gloucester counties

Joseph Metz/The Sun
Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae (center) talks about the opioid initiative during a press conference on Dec. 1 at Inspira Health in Mullica Hill.

Prosecutors in Cumberland, Salem and Gloucester counties are joining forces on an initiative with the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ) to provide scholarships on safe prescribing practices as part of the battle against opioids abuse in South Jersey.

The initiative, announced at a press conference at Inspira Health in Mullica Hill on Dec. 1, will have each prosecutor’s office give scholarships to prescribers who participate in the PDFNJ’s education course, Do No Harm: Exploring Strategies for Safer Prescribing of Opioids.

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The initiative was announced by Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae.

“The reason we’re here underscores the value of collaboration,” she said. “We have found that working on issues like trauma, violence and mental health, and we know that working together makes the load a bit lighter.”

The course and the initiative itself are intended for both health-care professionals and the general public, including doctors, dentists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, residents, fellows and medical students. The main goal is to teach the dangers of a too-high opioid dosage and how to handle such prescriptions properly, as well as providing addicts the means to get help and easily access Narcan.

“As we all know, for many, addiction begins with a prescription access to a narcotic,” explained Salem County Prosecutor Kristin Telsey of the initiative. “Whether that’s a prescription dosage that is too high but not too high, or a prescription that’s stuck in a drawer or a counter that’s misused by friends.

“It’s ground zero for addiction.”

Inspira President and CEO Amy Mansue was among those in attendance for the program announcement, along with Inspira Doctor and Emergency Medicine Residency Program Director James Baird.

“The addicted population is one of the most vulnerable populations I think that we take care of in the emergency department,” he noted. “Vulnerable for several reasons, every community is different, but it comes from not being able to predict who’s going to succumb to the disease of addiction.

“We do have predictors, we do have models that we can implement,” Baird added. “But to be able to do that in an immediate face-to-face interaction is extremely difficult. So it starts with prevention.’

Inspira is not the only regional hospital involved in the initiative. Cooper, Virtua and Jefferson hospitals are also on board, and representatives of each also attended the press conference, along with police and EMS personnel from area towns.

Those in need of help with substance abuse can call the addiction hotline at (800) 662-4357.

“We’re excited to highlight the collaboration and engagement in finding new ways to address public safety and public health issues in our community,” Webb-McRae said. “We’re thankful to enlist the efforts of the medical community to work on this exciting, important initiative.”

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