County vigil to shed light on addictive prescription drugs
Camden County will host its sixth annual Memorial Vigil of Remembrance and Hope in memory of those who lost their lives to drug overdoses on August 31, International Overdose Awareness Day.
“When we launched our Opioid Addiction Task Force (in 2014), one of our goals was to educate the public about the problem of substance use disorders and also to try to remove the stigma associated with trouble,” County Commissioner Louis Capelli said.
“We believed that by recognizing those who had tragically lost their lives to substance abuse disorders, we could remove the stigma and educate the public at the same time.”
Cappelli noted that factors driving the number of overdoses include addictive prescription drug abuse.
“When the makers of these pills went to doctors, they said the pills are not addictive, so our medical community has come to rely heavily on opioids for pain treatment,” Cappelli explained. . “Unfortunately, the pills are addictive. The manufacturers knew this and so we need to educate the public about the dangers of taking these prescription drugs.
A slide show during the vigil will identify those who have lost their lives to overdose and feature speakers who will address the impact of overdose on loved ones. New cobblestones will also be added to the memorial site.
The CDC estimates that more than 100,000 people in the United States have died of drug overdose between April 2020 and April 2021, an increase of 56,000 from the previous year. According to nj.gov, New Jersey recorded 3,124 suspected drug overdoses in 2021, including 335 in Camden County.
The vigil’s keynote speaker will be Mantua resident Tanya Niederman, whose 19-year-old son Justin died earlier this year from fentanyl poisoning.
“I hope we can find ways to make this (reality) more real so that people can kind of understand,” Niederman said, noting that her son was a recreational cocaine user. “I feel like every opportunity I have to tell a story and what happened to him, and our family is an opportunity to save a life.
“The reality is that nothing I do or say will bring it back, but we can try to prevent it from happening to anyone else.”
Camden County offers many mental health and addictions resources, including a fentanyl awareness campaign and a substance abuse task force that recommends policies and initiatives. Cappelli said a policy to make narcan more widely available in schools and buses is in the works.
The Memorial Vigil of Remembrance and Hope will be held at 7:30 p.m. at Timber Creek Park in Blackwood. Those interested in having their loved one featured in the slideshow should submit their name and photo to https://bit.ly/3dA89L8. People who have submitted photos in the past will need to submit again for this year.
People struggling with addiction can call the county’s helpline at (877) 266-8882. To learn more about addiction resources, visit https://www.camdencounty.com/service/mental-health-and-addiction/addiction-resources/