Above: Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) announces $299,360 grant from U.S. Department of Justice for Mahwah to combat the growing opioid crisis. (L-R) Joan Stewart, Student Assistance Counselor at Mahwah High School; Cathleen Davey, Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Ramapo College; Sharon Pushie from Mahwah Stigma Free; Mahwah Municipal Alliance President Carolyn Blake; Congressman Josh Gottheimer.
MAHWAH – This morning, Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) joined Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli, Mayor William Laforet, Ramapo College President Peter Mercer, and local community health experts to celebrate Mahwah securing a $299,360 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to combat the devastating opioid abuse epidemic.
“The opioid crisis in this country is devastating our families, neighbors, and communities with more than 40,000 deaths per year, and we know that New Jersey is not immune,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “We need to do more, and I am proud of Mahwah clawing this essential investment back from Washington to battle the crisis head on. Thank you to our brave first responders, who are on the front lines of this epidemic, for fighting to keep our communities safe and healthy.”
“Opioid addiction robs the heart and soul out of every family who is touched by it,” said Mahwah Mayor William Laforet. “I am grateful to Congressman Gottheimer for his support in receiving this grant and for everything he does to help fight opioid addiction in Mahwah.”
“This new grant for Mahwah will make a critical difference in our community,” said Carolyn Blake, President of the Mahwah Municipal Alliance, a volunteer organization in Mahwah working to prevent and fight substance abuse. “We look forward to working with the Mahwah Police Department to boost the programs, outreach, and preventative measures available to the residents of Mahwah.”
The funding, one of only two such grants awarded in New Jersey, will go towards providing more training for first responders, increasing the number of counselors available to combat the crisis, and improving coordination efforts with local educators and health care providers.
Congressman Gottheimer has made it a top priority to boost New Jersey’s return on investment for federal tax dollars already sent to Washington, and has focused on increasing those investments to directly fund the fight against the opioid crisis.
Last month, he celebrated clawing back $524,670 from the federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for the Fifth District’s Center for Prevention and Counseling.
Last year, Congressman Gottheimer also announced that SAMHSA would be reinvesting $13 million dollars to improve New Jersey’s response to the state’s opioid epidemic.
In April, Congressman Gottheimer announced his Student Athlete-Stop Addiction Strategy to help protect student athletes from the opioid crisis.
He also supported several bipartisan bills this summer that Congress passed to establish demonstration programs for alternative pain management protocols, to establish comprehensive opioid recovery centers, and to strengthen the FDA’s ability to detain, refuse, and destroy substances identified through international mail facilities, especially as more heroin and fentanyl comes in through China.
Below: Congressman Gottheimer with community leaders that work every day to combat substance abuse and addiction stigma in Mahwah. (L-R): Carolyn Blake, President of Mahwah Municipal Alliance; Jayne Demsky from Mahwah Stigma Free; Congressman Josh Gottheimer; Sharon Pushie from Mahwah Stigma Free.
The video from today’s event can be found HERE.
Congressman Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared can be found below:
Thank you to Chief Batelli and the brave men and women of the Mahwah Police Department for hosting us here today.
Thank you to Mayor Laforet for welcoming us to Mahwah.
Thank you to Carolyn Blake, President of the Mahwah Municipal Alliance. Your great group of volunteers helps prevent and fight substance abuse among our most vulnerable, and we are grateful for all you do for Mahwah.
Great to see Dr. Peter Mercer, our esteemed President of Ramapo College, here with us.
And thank you to Elisabeth, Collette, and Gail for joining us from Valley Hospital.
We’re here today to celebrate progress in the fight against opioid abuse and overdoses that are ravaging our families, neighborhoods, and communities. As we’ve quickly seen, no community is immune to the opioid crisis.
The CDC reports that opioids are the single leading cause of drug-related deaths, fueling more than 42,000 fatalities in 2016 alone, including more than 5,000 victims between the ages of 15 and 24.
New Jersey has been especially hard-hit. Between 2004 and 2016, New Jersey experienced a 413% spike in heroin-related deaths.
People like TJ Franzese, from Allendale, who played football at Don Bosco and Union College – and got addicted after a sports injury, and lost his life last year at 24.
It is, as last Sunday’s Bergen Record, proclaimed – “a real life nightmare.”
This year alone, from January 1st through last Friday, nearly 2,500 people have died from drug overdoses in New Jersey – already more than in all of 2017.
The Patch declared last year that Mahwah was one of the worst towns for heroin overdoses.
In 2017, we lost 2,221 mothers, fathers, son and daughters to this terrible epidemic. Six of our friends and family every single day. One of our neighbors every 4 hours.
There were nearly 77,000 admissions to treatment centers or hospital for opioid-related complications. Our first responders have been vigilant, deploying the life-saving drug narcan more than 6,000 times this past year, in an effort contain the epidemic.
It shouldn’t have to be this way. We need more solutions and more resources to fight this epidemic.
I am so grateful for the members of the Mahwah Police Department that are here today. Our first responders are on the front lines of this crisis, and their dedication to keeping our community safe must have our support – which is why I am proud to join them and all those here today to announce we’ve clawed back another $299,000, from Washington to Jersey, through the Department of Justice for Mahwah to fight the opioid crisis.
The grant will allow for the training of more of Mahwah’s first responders, hiring more counselors, and boosting coordination efforts with local educators and health care providers.
Mahwah is only one of two New Jersey towns to get such an investment, and I look forward to seeing the great progress that they can make with these additional resources, and I want to give the Mayor credit for working so hard for the people of Mahwah. And we must continue the work, across all party lines and across all towns, of clawing back our federal tax dollars to combat this epidemic that is ravaging our communities.
That’s why one of my top priorities, as your representative, is to fight for a better return on investment for our federal tax dollars. Here in the Fifth District, historically, we’ve only gotten back 33 cents for every dollar we send to Washington, compared to $4.38 for Mississippi for every dollar they send – for fire trucks, for roads, for training to fight crime, disease, lone-wolf terror, and of course, the opioid crisis.
Since I’ve taken office, working with mayors, first responders, and non-profits, we’ve seen a 16% increase in the federal dollars that come back into our district.
For our fire houses and emergency medical services, I’ve worked specifically on getting towns to apply for grants to help them purchase and upgrade their equipment, vehicles, and workplace trainings. Those grants brought $1.75 million back to North Jersey last year – an 81% improvement over the previous year.
And for our brave law enforcement officers, we’ve focused on clawing back our federal dollars tax dollars to expand training and equipment for police departments to be the best-equipped they can be for fighting crime and lone-wolf terror. Last year alone, in those excess programs we improved nearly 150% over past years, bringing $4.3 million dollars back to the Fifth District.
Some other of the most critical examples of our clawing back federal tax dollars from Washington have been directly aimed at combating the opioid crisis.
Last year, I was proud to announce that the federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) would be reinvesting $13 million dollars to improve New Jersey’s response to the state’s opioid epidemic.
And just last month, we clawed back an additional $524,670 in SAMHSA grants for the Fifth District’s own Center for Prevention and Counseling – another great North Jersey organization aimed at fostering healthy and addiction-free lifestyles in our own backyard.
We’ve also made some progress in Congress in combating the epidemic, in large part by my colleagues from both sides of aisle coming together to work together to find a lasting solution.
In Washington, I co-chair the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 24 Republicans and 24 Democrats committed to coming together to get to “yes” on some of the most pressing issues facing our country, and combating the opioid crisis has been one of our key issues over the past two years.
Congress also passed bipartisan bills I co-sponsored to establish demonstration programs for alternative pain management protocols to limit the use of opioids in hospital emergency departments, to establish comprehensive opioid recovery centers, and to strengthen the FDA’s ability to detain, refuse, and destroy substances identified through international mail facilities. This is especially important as more heroin and fentanyl comes in through China.
One area I’m particularly concerned about is student athletes becoming addicted to the opiate painkillers they’re prescribed to treat sports injuries. That’s why, in April, I stood with Bergen County resident Gail Cole – who lost her son Brendan, a talented and smart young man who played goalie on his college lacrosse team, to opioid addiction – to announce my Student Athlete-Stop Addiction Strategy to protect student athletes.
The strategy would require the Department of Health and Human Services to provide up-to-date information and data on actions taken to help student athletes who are prescribed opioids, report on current pilot programs available for our student health providers and athletes, and share more information on what more can be done to help students fight this epidemic.
By identifying certain populations who are at higher risk of becoming dependent on opioids, we can take decisive action in stopping the spread of this terrible epidemic amongst our most vulnerable, allowing us to fight back to stop their abuse across our state and our country.
Because it’s important we make these resources available quickly, but also essential we get them dispersed effectively to the right people, including the smart targeting of our resources.
I know that Mahwah will utilize these new resources to just that – to expand their counseling and training efforts strategically by coordinating with local educators and health care providers to find the most effective and efficient treatments to protect our families and communities.
Ultimately, I know that with persistence, America can beat the opioid crisis.
We live in the greatest nation in the world and we don’t quit. We come together as a community, we work together, and we fight back. This is a fight we can win. And in Congress, I will never quit fighting for the victims of the opioid crisis and fighting for families here in New Jersey and across our country.
Thank you and may God Bless our children, and may God continue to bless these United States of America.