The number of drug overdose deaths in Ocean County has now doubled from 53 last year to 107 thus far in 2013.

Tonight, Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato will hold a drug forum at the Stafford Township Arts Center to address what he has called a county-wide drug crisis.

 The drug that continues to plague the county is heroin, authorities said.

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An initial forum was held at the Toms River Pine Belt Arena in October and drew more than 1,900 people.

 Tonight's event will feature efforts to raise awareness, educate, mobilize school, health, local law enforcement partnerships, stop prescription drug abuses and move legislation to stiffen laws against drug dealers. The forum is a collaboration of the DART Coalition of Ocean County, Barnabas Health Institute for Prevention and the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office.

 “Ocean County residents deserve clear answers on what’s being done to address the tragic 107 overdose deaths to date in Ocean County. The second forum in southern Ocean County is our effort to expand the program’s reach to all county residents regarding this important issue,” Coronato said.

 The forum in October included speaker and mother Maureen Morella who told the crowd how her 16-year-old son snorted heroin for the first time, causing him to aspirate on his own vomit, cutting air off to his lungs, causing severe brain damage. He is now confined him to a wheel chair.

 Coronato and Morella will also be joined at the forum by Douglas S. Collier, drug initiative coordinator and law enforcement liaison for the state Attorney General's office. Former New York Giants running back and Lacey Township native Keith Elias is a special guest at the forum.


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