Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden brought college and high school students from throughout the County to Freehold on Tuesday for the second annual Student Ambassadors For Heroin Use Prevention forum.
The unique program that Golden launched last October brings student leaders together with educators, law enforcement officials and other government and non-profit drug abuse agencies to share information–both ways–to empower the students to lead their peers away from heroin use and to support the adults in improving their drug abuse prevention efforts.
“Law enforcement, educational and behavioral healthcare professionals can’t combat this problem alone,” Golden said. “That’s why it’s of the utmost importance that our adolescents and young adults, along with the professionals, work together to provide new and innovative approaches, strategies and solutions. Through this initiative, we hope to inhibit the wave of opiate use, addiction and related deaths.”
NJTV’s coverage of this week’s forum is cued up to start in the video below.
Students from Monmouth University, Brookdale Community College and high schools from Middletown, Manalapan, Keansburg, Howell, Holmdel, Wall, Asbury Park and West Long Branch came up with an action plan which consisted of strategies and solutions to the heroin crisis from a peer perspective. The groups were moderated by prominent leaders of the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, the Monmouth County Superintendent of Schools, the NJ Department of Education and prevention and addiction specialists.
Monmouth County lost approximately 164 residents to opiate related deaths in 2016. Those numbers are troubling, especially compared to the most recent statistics of highway fatalities and homicides in 2016, which were 49 and 7 respectively.
“We need to come up with strategies. It is tearing the fabric of our communities apart and we need you to think outside the box,” said Douglas Collier, Drug Initiative Coordinator & Law Enforcement Liaison, NJ Office of Attorney General who was the featured speaker. “We don’t have all the answers and that’s why it’s important we hear from you, on what needs to be done.”
“We collectively came up with several strategies to address this issue,” said Rachel Kuhlthau, Wall High School. “Because kids think it’s cool to do drugs, our groups created a slogan ‘Not Cool is Cool’. We also proposed to target middle school students about the dangers of drugs and want to make information and programs more available to all students.”
“This program was a great learning experience. The open dialogue and input from us as students will help make a difference,” said Eli Avivi, Manalapan High School. “We believe that getting parents more involved is the key to addressing this issue. In addition, having more accessible resources and social media outreach will help deal with the problem.”