Overdoses, deaths fall under Brick recovery program

BRICK TOWNSHIP — Opioid related overdoses have declined significantly since this time last year, primarily due to the efficacy of the township’s addiction recovery program. Ocean County has become notorious from opioid related overdoses and deaths. In 2015, Ocean County had the second-highest overdose death rate in the state at 157, according to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office. That number rose in 2016 with a total of 206. Brick accounted for 10 percent of that figure, with a total of 27 overdose deaths last year. Since the implementation of the Brick Township/Manchester Blue HART program, formerly known as HARP, however, that number has been on the decline. According to Brick Township Police Chief James Riccio, there have been 79 opioid related drug overdoses so far this year — a sharp decline from the 116 reported overdoses as of this time last year. Overdose fatalities are also down, though not as significantly, with 13 this year compared to 16 last year. Blue HART remains the driving factor in that reduction. While Chief Riccio said he would like to see programs like Blue HART spread across the country — it has already expanded to Lacey and is coming to Point Pleasant Borough — its popularity is straining treatment facilities. “We can make this as large as we want but they’re all competing for the same beds,” Chief Riccio said. The limited occupancy of treatment facilities — coupled with the fact that many patients are uninsured, putting the cost of treatment on treatment centers and drug forfeiture money from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office — has left the program in dire need of funding. On Saturday, July 29, Chief Riccio joined Mayor John Ducey, Council Vice President Andrea Zapcic and Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato for a roundtable discussion with Sen. Cory Booker in an effort to garner funding for the program. “We informed Sen. Booker about our Blue HART program and how successful it’s been and the fact that there has been over 200 people participate since January,” Mayor Ducey said. “We did make the request that if there was some federal funds available to help keep the program going because that’s what is necessary, additional money from additional sources.”

For more on this story, read The Ocean Star—on newsstands Friday or online in our e-Edition.