The Camden County Freeholder Board established the task force during its meeting Thursday night in Cherry Hill. Members of the task force will be appointed during next month’s meeting in Bellmawr.
The Freeholder Board received more than a dozen resumes from interested members of the community following its heroin summit in Collingswood on May 19.
“The task force will be made up of students, parents, teachers, civic organizations, medical professionals, public health providers, law enforcement and religious leaders – just to name a few” Freeholder Director Lou Cappelli said. “We are not limiting who comprises the task force since this is an issue that touches every area of our community.”
The task force will be charged with increasing awareness of prescription opiate and heroin abuse and addiction, aimed at reducing the demand for heroin and prescription drugs. They will also assist in the creation of programs to help educate residents of the resources available to prevent and treat addiction, and support the development of additional resources to treat and prevent addiction to end abuse of heroin and prescription drugs.
“The task force members will serve as liaisons to state and local community awareness groups as well as non-profit groups and drug addiction service providers,” Cappelli said. “As an elected official opiate addiction is one of my biggest concerns.”
The county will also launch a Public Service campaign, including announcements on local billboards.
A total of 15 heroin overdoses were reported in Camden County over a two-hour period in March.
“As a county we know that no one is immune to the addiction of opiates and the task force will focus on prevention and treatment as two main themes,” Cappelli said. “Furthermore, the Philadelphia region has been identified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as a main hub for heroin distribution in the Mid-Atlantic States.”
New Jersey data shows a steady rise in prescription drug abuse in recent years. There were 8,300 admissions to state-certified substance-abuse treatment programs due to prescription drug abuse in 2012, a 200 percent increase over the previous five years, according to the state.
Earlier this week, a program that was being used in the Jersey Shore that allows law enforcement officials to carry the heroin antidote Narcan was approved for statewide use.