Cape May County has created an Opioid Fatality Review Team to better understand and address overdose fatalities in the community and identify ways to prevent those deaths in the future, the county announced Friday.
The county Health Department has received $100,000 in funding and support from the New Jersey Department of Health through an award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to establish the Overdose Fatality Review Team and address opioid abuse.
Currently, Cape May County has a group of dedicated individuals collaborating from all aspects of the community involved in the fight against the opioid epidemic, according to a county news release.
“The county started public forums on this topic in 2013, to involve families and professionals in the system to better understand the disease and its impact in Cape May County,” Freeholder Jeff Pierson said in the release.
The county Prosecutor’s Office also began a school education program called “Pills to Heroin” and presented the program to every school in Cape May County, reaching 17 different schools and over 5,500 students and staff members.
A coalition of educators, law enforcement, prevention agencies and the county Department of Human Services developed a “PRIDE Committee” to focus on educating school staff regarding trauma and substance use disorder.
Other partners committed to this effort include the Departments of Social Service and Human Services, Acenda (formerly Cape Counseling), Cape Assist, the Prosecutor’s Office, Superintendent of Schools, Cape Regional Medical Center’s CARES program, Drug/Recovery Court, local police departments and EMTs, faith-based organizations and family members of those living with substance use disorder.
Based on the Maryland Localized Fatality Review Team’s model and in consultation with the expertise of the New Jersey Department of Health, the Cape May County multi-agency/multi-disciplinary Opioid Fatality Review Team will conduct confidential reviews of multiple individual overdose death cases in compliance with all applicable state and federal privacy and confidentiality legal requirements.
The overall intent of the team is to improve the quality of referral systems; enhanced outreach to families to provide overdose prevention and treatment services by local health departments and other providers; identify new audiences for Overdose Response Program (naloxone) trainings; and raise overdose awareness, according to the release.
“As an agency that works to improve the health of our community through service and partnership, we are excited that the County Health Department is facilitating the Cape May County Overdose Fatality Review Team process,” Pierson said.
He added, “We know that it is through partnerships and collaboration that we can have an impact on such a complex issue. We are encouraged by the number of partners who have come together from across our community with a sense of urgency and determination to address this issue.”