(Blackwood, NJ) – On Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners joined with law enforcement, public officials, members of the Black Horse Pike Regional School District and members of the county’s Addiction Awareness Task Force to distribute Naloxone kits to school bus drivers at Triton Regional High School.
This is part of the county’s ongoing initiative to make the overdose reversal medication, also known as Narcan, more accessible.
“Naloxone is a critical tool in our battle against the opioid and overdose epidemic,” said Commissioner Director Louis Cappelli Jr. “We need to keep this medicine on hand in every corner of our community because you never know when you are going to need it. Unfortunately, we know that it is possible to lose a child to overdose in a school setting – and most recently on a school bus – so distributing these kits and training school staff is a measure we must take to keep our children safe.”
So far, four districts across the county are participating in the program and 104 bus drivers have been trained to administer Naloxone. The goal, like installing the Naloxone boxes throughout every school in Camden County, is to have this tool on every school bus.
“The opioid and fatal overdose epidemic are a public health emergency that we have been battling for more than 10 years,” said Camden County Health Officer Dr. Paschal Nwako. “But Narcan has made an incredible impact by reversing the effects of an overdose. Equipping all our community leaders with Narcan and training will allow us to save lives, create a healthier community, and get one step closer to getting someone the help they need to beat substance use disorder.”
The Camden County Addiction Awareness Task Force and the county Department of Health and their division of Mental Health and Addiction has made bold and unprecedented policy decisions since the onset of this epidemic. The combined efforts have yielded programs like Operation SAL (Save a Life) that provides our community with treatment options, litigation against the big pharmaceutical companies and their distributors and education for families on the ubiquity of opioids in all recreational narcotics.
Furthermore, the Commissioners introduced Project Save more than four years ago in 2019 which is an early intervention program in the municipal court system. There have been almost 10,000 referrals for substance use disorder support since the advent of the program and more than 900 referrals in the first eight months of the year.
“The message is clear, and the imminent threat is real in Camden County, there is no such thing as a long-term fentanyl user,” said Camden County Prosecutor Grace MacAulay. “The increasingly deadly threat of fentanyl continues to have devasting impacts on individuals, families, and communities across the country, and Camden County is no exception. But the good news is, together we can overcome the opioid crisis and fentanyl threat by progressive initiatives like placing Narcan in every space that people congregate. Together we can stop this suffering and save lives.”
Also, the Camden County Jail has been held up as a national model by the White House and U.S. Senator Cory Booker, providing medically assisted treatment to its residents and creating a continuity of care for their release from the facility. This program has reduced recidivism, supported re-entry and saved lives.
In addition, the Camden County Commissioners have worked on a variety of harm reduction policies by installing Naloxone boxes throughout the county park system and every public school from Camden City to Winslow Township. Additionally, the Commissioners also provide free Narcan training sessions, fentanyl test strips, NaloxBoxes for social service organizations and mental health support for those who have lost a loved one to substance use disorder.
Superintendent of the Black Horse Pike Regional School District, Dr. Brian Repici, has been at the forefront to provide valuable lifesaving tools to his district. Going back more than six years, he was the first superintendent to have school nurses keep Naloxone on hand. After that he had the first Naloxobox installed into the Highland High School Library and now is the first superintendent to train his bus drivers.
“Naloxone is a tool like anything else we would use to save a life on our campuses, like an AED. We hope to never have to use it on our students or staff, but if there is an overdose, we know we have a lifesaving antidote that can be accessed for the opportunity to render aid and save a life,” Repici said. “The realities of the world dictate to us the need for Narcan in schools and we never want to be put in a dire situation where we are not prepared to act or for that matter, don’t have the proper tools to effectively act to save a student’s life.”
The program, both training and purchase of the Naloxone, will be paid for using opioid settlement funds.
Anyone seeking addiction assistance should call 1-844-ReachNJ (732-2465), which provides free professional support for those facing addiction and their loved ones. If you are a Camden County resident suffering from substance abuse disorder, please call the Office of Mental Health and Addiction at (856) 374-6361.