Berkeley Township Police hold #NotEvenOnce program at Central Regional
As Ocean County continues to battle the heroin and opioid epidemic, an educational forum took place in Berkeley Township in hopes seniors at Central Regional High School never use drugs.
#NotEvenOnce was derived from recovering addicts who say that if they could do it all over again, they would choose not to do drugs...even once.
The program began in Ocean County in 2016 under the leadership of Manchester Township Police and Chief Lisa Parker.
A training was held for her fellow chiefs of police in Ocean County and of course included Berkeley Chief Karin DiMichele.
"Our Chief brought that back to us and sent us three (Berkeley Township Police Patrolman Scott Selby, Patrolman Scott Bowens and Sgt. Damon Papa) to training at Manchester," Selby said. "Manchester started this program and now it's branching out."
Selby says they hope that following this program the students will never turn towards heroin or opiates.
"We gave the students information about the opiate crisis that we're having in Ocean County between the prescription pain pills and the heroin, which is killing people everyday," Selby said. "Roughly 54-people every single day die of an overdose from one of those things, an opiate, not any other drug just those drugs. We're trying to get it across to these kids...stay away from these drugs, they're highly addictive."
The main message is to not use drugs even once to avoid becoming addicted to something so dangerous, it's deadly.
Sergeant Damon Papa says they're trying to educate and help as many people as possible on the dangers of drug abuse.
"These drugs are unlike anything we've ever dealt with before," Papa said. "The epidemic is growing and we're trying to give people information so they can help themselves or somebody else."
Recovered addict Lee Platt who has turned his second chance in life into an opportunity to help others, now works as a national interventionalist for Recovery Unplugged Treatment Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and travels across the country.
Following the program in the Bayville section of Berkeley Township, he hopes that students will heed their message as a warning.
"Maybe if they (students) heard something from people that were actively in addiction and now have come to the other side into recovery, that they can stay away and stear clear and hear the message that, you don't have to go through the pain and suffering that others have gone through," Platt said. "They can have a different avenue and not do it once."
He says the potency of drugs like fentanyl or synthetic opiates are stronger now than ever before.
"The drug world has developed and it's a little different than when I went to high school," Platt said. "They have major league fentanyl, carefentanil...all these designer drugs now that are killing people."
"Kids don't realize it that the stuff that they used to do are laced with other stuff," Platt continued. "It's scary, it's really scary nowadays."
In holding a #notevenonce program for students, patrolman Shawn Bowens nips an old stigma associated with heroin use in the bud.
"It doesn't just focus on certain families," Bowens said. "This drug doesn't discriminate. It's not just the user, it's the families affected by this drug."
Joe Solack, a recovered drug addict whose using his second chance in life to help others says for anyone who is or knows someone suffering with this disease, sobriety is possible.
"There is help out there, reach out, don't be ashamed and take the stigma off it," Solack said. "Even if it comes down to it, go to your local N.A. or A.A. meeting."
He adds that there's no shortage of people out there willing to help you or your loved one fight their way out from under the suffering of this disease.
"We want to let them know that the police officers and township officials are on their side," Solack said. "There's help out there."
Berkeley Police are hoping to continue expanding this program within the township and to other grade levels in the school district as well to end this epidemic and provide help to all who seek it and need it.
"We're seeing it as police officers that people are literally dying," Selby said. "It's not just...some junky, the old thought of a heroin addict or a drug addict...this is everybody, it's affecting moms, dads, grandmothers, grandfathers down to 14-year old's."