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Monmouth County Taking Further Steps To Fight Epidemic Of Heroin Overdose

FREEHOLD: A new partnership between the Monmouth and Ocean County Prosecutor's Offices and local hospitals is aimed at combating the epidemic of opiates overdose.

Barnabas Health- and Meridian Health-based hospitals as well as CentraState Medical Center have joined with the prosecutor's offices by agreeing to replenish the overdose antidote naloxone (NARCAN) for police departments free of charge. The companies operate nine hospitals in Monmouth and Ocean Counties including Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch and Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune City.

Thanks to their cooperation, we were able to strike an agreement that helps law enforcement officers save the lives of overdose victims without having police departments bear the costs of purchasing the naloxone," Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said at a July 1 press conference.

A police officer can, starting today, exchange an empty naloxone syringe that was used to resuscitate an overdose victim with a new one. Initially, the naloxone purchases were funded with money seized from criminal activity and retained in their respective County Law Enforcement Trust Accounts, but that type of expenditure on a recurring basis is prohibited by law.

Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato said NARCAN costs have increased from about $14 per vial to double or even triple that cost in recent months.

Last year, overdose deaths in Monmouth County rose from 75 in 2013 to 92 in 2014. Since NARCAN was introduced to Monmouth County police departments via a pilot program in April, 2014, naloxone has been deployed 99 times last year which resulted in 86 reversals and 13 deaths.

So far this year in Monmouth and Ocean counties, NARCAN has been deployed with 98 and 142 deployments, respectively.

Vice-President for Barnabas Health Behavioral Health Network Institute for Prevention Connie Green said she is happy with this first step and that Barnabas Health is looking to take another to aid in the fight against opiates overdose by applying for a grant from the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

"The grant is to provide funding to hire interventionists to be in the hospital when a NARCAN reversal takes place with the goal of navigating that individual into treatment," Greene said.

She said the grant is the first of its kind in the nation and was just announced on June 30.

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