GARFIELD, N.J. — Representatives from 62 Bergen County school districts and 55 police departments met at the Venetian in Garfield Wednesday morning to discuss one of the area's biggest challenges — opioid and heroin abuse.
"Opioids have always been an issue, but what has changed is the scope and severity of their danger," Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal told the crowd at the 25th annual Statewide Narcotics Action Plan Conference (SNAP).
"What we hope to do is create a coordinated response between law enforcement and educators and equip you with the tools to identify and address this issue," he said.
2016 is on track to be a record year for Bergen County in terms of opioid overdoses.
Already this year there have been 67 overdoses, following 231 in 2015.
"We cannot arrest our way out of this problem," said Detective Chris Lewicki.
Lewicki and Sgt. Hector Carter of the county's Narcotic Task Force spoke to the crowd of 300 about the Heroin Education Initiative, in which recovering addicts come to schools to speak to students about the dangers of opioid abuse.
"Education is a huge component of this," Lewicki said.
Ellen Elias from Children's Aid and Family Services also spoke to the crowd about a partnership with the county for a new initiative called "Recovery Coach Academy."
As part of the program, volunteer coaches from Children's Aid and Family Services will meet with patients in the hospital immediately following a Narcan reversal to provide resources to help them get into recovery.
The conference also featured presentations by the county's Computer Crimes Unit regarding the issues of cyberb-ullying and swatting.
"These are issues that did not exist 25 years ago but are a real problem today," Grewal said.