With Ocean County facing 82 drug-related overdose deaths this year, officials are calling attention to International Overdose Awareness Day, which is held annually on Aug. 31.
The purpose of the day is to commemorate those who have died or are suffering as a result of a drug overdose and to acknowledge the grief felt by families and friends.
Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato called the drug problem in the county a crisis when he took office earlier this year.
Every week, the numbers of drug deaths in the county are rising, surpassing the 53 deaths in 2012, Coronato said this week.
One of the drugs that are killing many across the county this year is heroin.
"The heroin-use epidemic in Ocean County strikes at the very heart of our families, friends and communities. Stopping the plagues of addiction and the senseless deaths must be our priority," Coronato said.
Coronato said the greatest percentage of robberies in Ocean County are drug-related. Youths and young adults are stealing money to buy drugs or breaking into homes looking for drugs, he said.
Earlier this year, the Ocean County Opiate Task Force was formed to bring together agencies to provide services to those in need of help for addiction and those helping them with addiction.
The task force has launched its 365-day campaign against drug abuse by offering a calendar of events for the community. The group will be reaching out to Ocean County residents who have been affected by drug abuse to share their experiences, officials said.
Also, the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office is partnering with the county Health Department and other stakeholders in prevention, intervention and treatment to address the county's drug-use epidemic.
"Our drug and alcohol counselor spends her entire working day on the phone with distraught parents on what they can do, what should they do and what can be done for their child," said Daniel Regenye, Ocean County Health Department public health coordinator.
Through the Health Department's partnership with the Prosecutor's Office and others, officials are looking to educate parents on signs of their child's drug use or abuse, Regenye said.
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