It takes a community effort to combat a problem as pervasive as substance addiction, and that’s just what Cape May County’s Board of Chosen Freeholders is looking to use against its ongoing heroin epidemic.

The board will hold its third Community Action Against Addiction forum Thursday. It will include an overview of the previous two meetings and development of an action plan for the future.

Upper Township resident Tonia Ahern, who attended the first two meetings, said community involvement is vital to addressing the epidemic.

“It’s the only way to combat the issue,” she said. “We need to join together and work as a community.”

The series was organized last year by Freeholder Kristine Gabor after she noted the prevalence of substance abuse, particularly heroin abuse, in Cape May County. Community members were invited to attend a forum in September detailing addiction services available in the county. A second forum was held in in October for community members to share their perspective on how to combat the issue.

At Thursday’s meeting, volunteers will organize into subcommittees to explore areas such as treatment, prevention and education. These subcommittees will meet in the coming months and help the county come up with a plan to fight this problem.

Gabor said it was important that the community get to direct the response to this issue, as they’re the ones best-acquainted with the problem.

“A lot of people in government, they think they know it all, and we don’t,” she said. “You need to go to the source, and they need to let you know what’s failing.”

Response to the forums has been strong, with about 130 showing up to the first meeting and nearly a hundred coming to the second.

Cape May County Human Services Director Pat Devaney said she’s hopeful there will be a similar turnout at Thursday’s forum. And there will need to be, she said, if the county is to win this fight.

“There are quite a number of people who want to help, they may not have been touched themselves by addiction but they’re concerned about the issue,” Devaney said. “It’s such a problem, everyone could be working on it and we’d still have miles to go.”

Participants are asked to register by contacting Freeholder Gabor at gabor@co.cape-may.nj.us or 609-465-1072.

Contact Braden Campbell:

609-463-6719

Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.