Addiction prevention and treatment advocates want to bring together South Jersey communities this spring by holding expert panels and town hall meetings on the national opioid epidemic.

Events in April and May in Atlantic, Cape May and Ocean counties will invite residents and others to identify how the opioid addiction epidemic is continuing to affect their communities and possible solutions to those issues.

Stockton University, in Galloway Township, will hold an expert panel event April 11 on how the community can address the opioid crisis. The event, open to the public, will run from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the university’s Alton Auditorium, 101 Vera King Farris Drive.

University officials said the panel discussion will look at the current opioid crisis through the lens of four educational perspectives: biology, social work, health science and wellness.

Atlantic County had 171 drug overdose deaths in 2016, according to state reports, a majority of which included heroin or fentanyl use. The state Office of the Attorney General estimates that 46 people in the county have already died this year from overdoses.

Panelist speakers scheduled for the Stockton event include Nathaniel Hartman, Jack Lewis, Michele Previti and Luanne Anton. John Guers will moderate the event.

Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, with Horizon Foundation for New Jersey and Cape Assist, will hold a Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall event April 19 at Dennis Township Senior Center for Cape May County residents.

The town hall series has been brought to the majority of New Jersey counties, including Atlantic, Cumberland and Ocean last year. The event was designed to bring together concerned residents, advocates, treatment professionals, first responders and others to talk about addiction in their communities.

“This epidemic affects everyone, and only by coming together can we effectively explore solutions to address the opioid crisis,” Angelo Valente, executive director of Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, said in a statement.

The availability and prescribing rates of opioid medications has come under scrutiny in previous county town hall meetings. State data showed 87,169 opioids were dispensed in Cape May County in 2017 — enough for every adult county resident to have at least one prescribed opioid medication.

The town hall event at the senior center, 571 Petersburg Road in Dennisville, will be 9 to 11 a.m.

Featured speakers will include state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland; Cape May County Prosecutor Jeffrey H. Sutherland; Dr. Domenic Coletta, emergency room chief doctor at Cape Regional Medical Center; Temerity Berry, director of prevention services at Cape Assist; Kathryn Gibson, substance use navigator at Cape Assist; and Tonia Ahern, family advocate with Parent-To-Parent and the Mental Health Association in New Jersey.

Another town hall event, for Ocean County residents, will take place May 17 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Calvary Baptist Church, 850 Railroad Drive, Little Egg Harbor Township. Guest speakers are still being finalized.

For more information and to register for the town hall events, see townhallseries.

Cape May County residents can also register by contacting Berry at 609-522-5960 or

Contact: 609-272-7022 Twitter @ACPressNLeonard

Staff Writer

Previously interned and reported for, The Asbury Park Press, The Boston Globe

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