New Jersey Prosecutor’s Office Takes to Social Media to Prevent Overdose Deaths

When it comes to heroin and painkiller addiction and overdoses, the Northeast United States has been very hard hit. In New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire, there are towns where no family has escaped the tragic effects of this epidemic of opioid abuse. In Hackensack, New Jersey, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office (BCPO) decided to fight back using social media tools. In November 2016, they launched an online campaign to bring attention to this catastrophic problem and generate more communication and action.

Map of Hackensack with pills and syringe.

The hashtag for this social media campaign is #StopTheODs. One of the activities of the BCPO is to notify anyone following them on Twitter or Facebook of the lives lost to overdoses and the lives saved with the use of Narcan. Narcan is the antidote administered after an overdose of heroin or painkillers like Vicodin, Lortab, Percocet, fentanyl and others. Either through a nasal spray or an injection, Narcan has the ability to bring person dying from opioid overdose back to life, as long as it is administered early enough and in sufficient quantity.

“By sharing this information, we hope that parents, educators, and others can use it to have difficult conversations and to do more,” said Acting County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal. The stated purpose of this campaign is to encourage everyone to do their part to “prevent the next overdose.”

Facebook and Twitter

The Facebook page for the BCPO shows office staff interacting with family members of overdose survivors, offering them resource packets to help them take action to prevent future overdoses. The office also sent one of their staff to Hasbrouck Heights High School to educate teens on the life-threatening risks of painkiller misuse or heroin use.

While the office’s Twitter feed covers a variety of topics, the hashtag #StopTheODs focuses just on this public education campaign. An alert is posted each time someone either dies from an overdose or is saved. As of the evening of November 15th, 2016, 73 Bergen County lives have been lost to overdoses in 2016 and 158 have been saved with the use of Narcan. The alert also shows the location of the overdose on a map and the age and gender of the individual.

Generating Public Interest and Action

Whatever can be done to get people talking and sharing information is a vital action in these days of widespread heroin and painkiller addiction. For fifty years, the Narconon network of drug rehabilitation centers has been reaching out into communities to educate young people, families and community groups of the harm that results from drug abuse. Very often it is just lack of understanding of the extent of a problem like drug abuse that allows communities to overlook ways they can fight back.

When government agencies and non-profit organizations step outside their routine duties and engage the community in dialogue and action, increased awareness helps generate greater action and in this situation, that action can save lives. We applaud the BCPO for stepping out into the community during this time of great need.


REFERENCE LINKS

The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Facebook page can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/BCPONJ/

Their Twitter username is @BCPONJ and the hashtag to search for is #StopTheODs.

http://ridgewood.dailyvoice.com/news/stoptheods-bergen-county-prosecutor-sheds-light-on-heroin-epidemic/688451/#.WB3Y2SkJNwY.twitter

AUTHOR

Karen

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.