Posted Thursday, May 4th, 2017

Morris County Stigma Free logoThe continuing focus on the heroin and opiate epidemic in Morris County, and the efforts to foster treatment and recovery for substance abuse and mental illness through a Stigma-Free countywide environment, takes center stage next week in Kinnelon and Denville.

A major forum in Kinnelon, billed as “The Opiate Epidemic from Addiction to Recover through Awareness, Education, Compassion’’ is scheduled for Wednesday, May 10, from 7-9:30 p.m. at Kinnelon High School.

The event is a coordinated program presented by the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, in concert with the Morris County Sheriff, Morris County Board of Freeholders, Morris County Community Coalition, and Kinnelon Borough and School District

Kinnelon High School, located at 121 Kinnelon Road in Kinnelon, is the setting for the forum.Kinnelon Borough logo

Also, next week, Saint Clare’s Health is launching a campaign as part of National Mental Health Awareness Month that will culminate in a Stigma-free celebration on Wednesday, May 10, 6-8 p.m. at Saint Clare’s Denville Hospital Urban Auditorium located at 25 Pocono Road in Denville.

The campaign is part of a countywide initiative to end discrimination and negative attitudes towards people with mental illness or substance abuse and features 10 courageous individuals who are sharing their stories to help break the stigma.

Stigma Free Morris County: Opiate Forum in Kinnelon AND Stigma-Free Celebration at St. Clare's on May 10At the May 10 forum in Kinnelon, residents will hear from law enforcement, government, education, and social services experts on what is being done to stop this growing health crisis and how to foster treatment and recovery.

Freeholder Doug Cabana

Freeholder Doug Cabana

“We are working in a coordinated countywide effort to deal with these troubling issues, which are ruining individual lives and destroying families, who are hard-pressed to deal with this deadly affliction,’’ said Morris County Freeholder Director Doug Cabana.

“By raising public consciousness of this heroin-opioid epidemic, it is our hope to stem the tide of addiction and related deaths,” said Morris County Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp.

Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp

Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp

In New Jersey, nearly 1,600 people died of drug overdoses in 2015 — two times the national rate and a 22 percent increase from the year prior. Some estimates show 128,000 New Jerseyans addicted to heroin.

More troubling statistics: More than 33,000 Americans – about 91 a day — died from opioid overdoses in 2015, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Morris County is not immune from the growing epidemic as fatal opiate overdoses in the county rose from 43 in 2015 to 64 in 2016.

To help reduce the stigma of coming forward to seek treatment for mental illness and/or substance abse, the Board of Freeholders in 2016 passed a resolution designating Morris County as a Stigma-Free County and asked the county’s 39 towns to consider enrolling. So far, 14 towns have joined.

Morris County has created a Stigma Free website to call attention to the initiative, provide information and resources, and a calendar of upcoming events related to mental illness and substance abuse.