County tracks toll of opioids

Joe Pritchard (left) CEO of Pinnacle Treatment Centers and New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal (right) were on hand for the grand opening of the Ocean Monmouth Care center located at 150 Brick Blvd., in Brick on Wednesday March 6, 2019. (MARK R. SULLIVAN /THE OCEAN STAR)

BRICK TOWNSHIP — Black Balloon Day, a day of remembrance for all of those who have died and been affected by opioid abuse and addiction, was commemorated in Brick Township on Wednesday at the opening of a new treatment center.

One of the hardest-hit states in the nation has been New Jersey, and one of the hardest hit counties in the state has been Ocean County, specifically the towns of Brick and Toms River, according to a new study published by the Ocean County Health Department.

“This is one of the most devastated areas in the state, as you know. Ocean County has one of the highest rates of increasing opioid overdoses and deaths from opioids, so this in particular is on our radar at the state level,” said Dr. Shareef Elnahal, NJ Department of Health commissioner, as he released a batch of black balloons into the sky at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Ocean Monmouth Care Facility, 150 Brick Blvd.

“Unfortunately … we are still dealing with an epidemic in this state that is not slowing down,” he said. “If anything, it’s speeding up. We’re finally employing a public health approach [to the problem]. It’s not just a game of awareness, it’s not just a game of opening more clinics — it is a comprehensive effort to fix it.”

This is an excerpt of the print article. For more on this story, read The Ocean Star—on newsstands Friday or online in our e-Edition.