Education remains a key part of addressing skyrocketing rates of opioid addiction and deaths, and dedicating a day for volunteers to spread awareness can be a small but important part of the solution, advocates say.
Thousands of volunteers are expected to participate in Saturday’s Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day, a statewide foot campaign that encourages people to distribute information about safe prescribing and addiction prevention and treatment resources within their communities.
Advocates and concerned residents and professionals distribute information on foot to businesses, health providers, dentist offices and public centers, as well as deliver door hangers to neighborhood homes.
Local events like songwriting contests, candlelight vigils and charity walks also take place the same day to spread messages of prevention and recovery, organizers said.
STRATFORD — Medical students Yukari Ueda and Jonathan Benjamin walked into an exam room wear…
“Educating our residents and health care providers is a key step in preventing the tragedy of overdose deaths and addiction that has already affected far too many New Jersey families and communities,” Angelo Valente, executive director of Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, said in a statement.
The state Senate passed a joint resolution Sept. 27 that would permanently designate Oct. 6 as a day to raise awareness about the dangers of opioid abuse and its link to heroin addiction, and to educate health care professionals, community leaders, lawmakers and the public about the epidemic.
State data show about 2,194 people have died from drug overdoses in the first nine months of 2018, the majority of them from opioids such as heroin and fentanyl.
More than 10,000 volunteers statewide participated in last year’s Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day, organizers said.
The daylong initiative is coordinated by the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey along with the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse; the state Department of Human Services; and the Community Coalition for a Safe & Healthy Morris.
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John Curtis Jr., 24, of Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania
3/26/1988 - 7/23/2012
Corey Besack, 30, of Exton, Pennsylvania
Chad L. Harper, 38, of Galloway Township and Orlando, Florida. Pictured with his daughter, Gabrielle.
02/03/79 – 10/20/17
"Chad was a charismatic person, he lived and loved life. Chad grew up in New Jersey and was working at the House of Blues in Disney Springs Florida at the time of his death. Chad loved his family, especially his daughter Gabrielle.
"We will forever miss him, our hearts are broken." -Laurie Johns-Devito, his mother
"My child may have died; but my love - and my motherhood - never will." -C.S. Lewis
David E. Hinkley Jr., 52, of Somers Point, formerly of Delaware
Feb. 12, 1965 - Oct. 19, 2017
Hinkley was born in Atlantic City and also lived in Brigantine and Absecon. He lived in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, for 10 years.
Frankie Vitagliano Jr., 38, of Brigantine
Born on January 10, 1989 and died from a heroin overdose on December 11, 2017.
"He left behind a son, a fiancée and a family who will miss him forever. Forever in our hearts!" -Michelle, his mother
Gregory DiAntonio, 32, of Wildwood
9/22/1980 to 12/30/2012
"Miss you every day ❤️" -Kreni DiAntonio, his mother
Matt Guzman, 23, of Buena
April 21, 1993 - August 27, 2016
"Matt was more than drugs. He gave so much and asked for so little. Get then help before it's too late. I love my son forever and enough is enough." -Linda Rivera, his mother
Jeffrey Fitzgerald Giannini, 30, of Ventnor
Died of a heroin overdose in Atlantic City on June 1, 2018.
“Jeffrey was an avid fisherman, novice chef, and world traveler…” -Ramona Giannini, his mother
Joshua Zeuner, 30, of Galloway Township
February 12, 1988 - July 7, 2018
"One Life Who Made an Impact on Every Life He Touched. Loved and Never Forgotten." -Candace Mazza, his fiance
Kevin J. McCarthy, 27, of Vineland
July 3, 1990 - Sept. 28, 2017
"Loving father, son, brother, uncle, fiancé, and friend. His wings were ready, but our hearts were not. Forever in our hearts."
Tommy McLaughlin, 39, of Egg Harbor Township
Died June 2, 2018, from a drug overdose after a long battle with addiction.
"Tommy will not be defined by his addiction, but by his caring and quiet demeanor."
Sean Hartley, 33, of Somers Point
Born Dec. 26, 1981. Hartley passed away of a heroin overdose on March 15, 2015.
“Hopefully everyone with an addiction sees the pictures of our loved ones that are gone, will seek out the help that they need to overcome their addiction. I miss my son everyday, he will forever be in my heart.” -Patti Nugent, his mother.
Christine Williams, 37, of Absecon
1/19/1979 - 4/16/2016
"A beautiful soul."
“RIP I miss you my Aquarius angel ❤ lucky 33/37.” -Jennifer McGaffney, friend
Steven James Schmincke, 26, of Mays Landing
7-4-89 / 3-26-16
"Addiction cannot define Steven's life. He was a good hearted son, brother, father and fiancé. There was so much more to you. We miss and love you Steven." -Bill and Tammy Schmincke, his parents
Katelyn Marie Elwell, 18, of Mays Landing
“She was a loving friend to everyone she met and had an infectious laugh.” -Susan Elwell, her mother
Ashley Gitto, 25, of the Lower Bank section of Washington Township.
“We will love you and miss you FOREVER 💔” -Matt, Kathy & Courtney Gitto
Andy Dietrich, 37, of Margate
“Loved life and playing volleyball on the beach with his brothers.”
Michael Firrincilli, 37, of Galloway Township
Died from a heroin overdose on Sept. 28, 2015. He left behind his two daughters, 4 and 19, his long-time girlfriend and his family. He is missed every single day.
“While he wasn’t able to save himself from addiction he did save 5 lives from organ donation and that helped us through his loss because he was the type to give you the shirt off his back and feed whoever needed to eat. He had the biggest heart.”
Raven Kunze, 30, of Toms River
Kunze passed away from an accidental overdose on May 2, 2015.
Melissa A. Endicott, 31, of Absecon
01/14/1986 — 07/02/2017
“She was full of life, ambitious, and had the biggest heart. My sister was more than her addiction and I always want her to be remembered for the beautiful soul she was. Rest peacefully my guardian angel.” -Amanda Endicott, her sister
Samantha Jo Bender, 23, of Gibbstown
Died April 27, 2006
She had a 4-year-old daughter.
Jenny Renee Turner, 32, of Woodbury
8/7/74 - 7/31/07
Turner she passed on July 21, 2007 in Camden after being sober for almost 3 years and left behind a son.
"Not a day goes by we do not miss her and the wonderful caring person she was. I love you Jenny." -Desiree Turner, her sister
Paul (Randy) Lacey, 53, of Egg Harbor Township
“He battled with his addiction to heroin for 10 years. Before that, my father was clean and sober from all mind altering substances for 25 years. He was in a car accident and prescribed pills, which lead to shooting heroin. He left behind his wife of 35 years, his daughter and two grandchildren. Fly high daddy fly high! I hope I make you proud!” -Brandy Henkes, his daughter
James A. “Grizzly” Clark III, 26, of Northfield
Clark overdosed on heroin at the West Palm Beach Airport in Florida and passed away on Dec. 24, 2014.
“He was coming home to Northfield for Christmas to see his son, JJ.” -Donna Clark, his mother
James Matthew Robinson, 27, of Sea Isle City
Died July 7, 2013
“We miss you every single day.”
Justin Toscano, 24, of Egg Harbor Township
4-5-86 to 4-21-12
“Justin was my boyfriend for seven years. We lived together in Philadelphia after I finished college so I could find a job. He went to rehab on Valentine’s Day 2012. After rehab, he seemed like he was finally ready to get clean and almost had a new outlook on life, even after only being approved for a 28-day inpatient rehabilitation program. Unfortunately, Justin relapsed one day while I was at work and I found him dead in our apartment when I got home. Justin was a Union 351 Electrician. The most important thing in his life was working hard, taking care of and being with his family, friends and me. I miss him and think about him everyday.” -Julia Mastalski, his girlfriend
Matthew Mason, 24, of Egg Harbor Township
Mason died three years ago from an overdose.
“There is not one day that goes by that my heart does not ache to just hug him one more time! I love and miss you so much!” -Theresa Allmond-Mason, his mother
Josanna Feldman-Smith, 34, of Galloway Township
“With a hole in our hearts that will never heal. Love always, Dad.” -George Smith, her father
Timothy F. Milam, 31, of Vineland
January 14, 1984 – October 24, 2015
“There’s always gonna be another mountain I’m always gonna wanna make it move Always gonna be an uphill battle Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose Ain’t about how fast I get there Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side It’s the climb” Love, Mom and Dad, sisters, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews
Christian McCarthy, 45, of Millville
Graduated from The College of New Jersey with honors and Widner Law School.
Died Aug. 18, 2015 of a heroin overdose. Missed very much by his family.
Fred Taylor, 46, of Haddon Heights
Unfortunately passed away on Aug, 21 due to heroin. He did save one life by donating his organs.
Daniel T. Michael, 30, of the Pomona section of Galloway Township
5-19-86 to 6-21-16
Hailey Gabrielle Jones, 19, of the Smithville section of Galloway Township
Passed away Aug. 13, 2014.
"Hailey was a beautiful, vibrant girl whose smile and infectious laugh could light up any room. I miss her more every long day...”
Beau Michael Reilly, 21, of Egg Harbor Township
"Always in our hearts."
Ryan B. Beard, 29, of Point Pleasant
Beloved son and grandson
Rutgers University Graduate
Outstanding baseball player and beloved coach
Jesse Flynn, 22, of Sayreville
"Our son Jesse passed away from a heroin overdose on May 29, 2016. He left behind a daughter only 8 months old and a family who loved him deeply. He was kind, witty and full of dreams! If he had a choice he wouldn't have chosen this disease. He had too much to live for!" -Linda Flynn, his mother
Thomas John Latham, 24, of Hamilton Township
“You are always and forever in our hearts. Your light will always shine! Shine on Tom! We love you!!” -his parents
Mark Aishton, 33, of Galloway Township
“The world will never know what these young men could have accomplished. It is not just our loss but the country’s as well.” -Marilyn Aishton, his mother
Dan Miller, 27, of Mays Landing
“Dan passed 6 years ago due to a drug overdose. Our family looks forward to the day God reunites us all.” -Dave Miller, his father.
George John Lees, 33, of Galloway
Dec. 8, 1982 to April 12, 2016
"One month from his masters. He was dedicated to higher education and he loved his son with all his heart."
Harry F. Snyder, 25, of Marmora
“He was dearly loved and will be forever missed and grieved.” -Maureen and John Snyder, his parents
Michael Hesselbach Jr., 20, Saint Charles, Missouri
Died from a heroin, fentanyl overdose
Brandon D. Cooper, 29, Villas section of Lower Township
"A quote comes to mind: 'Goodbyes hurt the most, when the story was not finished...' It’s up to us, your family and friends, to share your story and keep your memory alive. By raising awareness of this growing epidemic, hopefully we will reduce the stigma surrounding addiction and will help someone regain control of their life. We will continue to share your story, your memory will live on and your death will not be for nothing, we promise you."
Tyler Jay Onesty, 22, of Ocean City
"Loved and respected by many! His story is already saving others as he tried to do till the end of his battle with addiction."