HOWELL – Some might recall the 1980s song “99 Luft (red) Balloons” but it is 99 purple flags that are flying at the township municipal building.
Township Municipal Alliance Coordinator Christa Riddle discussed the purpose of the purple flags when she greeted members of the Mayor and Council recently.
“They honor lives lost to overdoses in Monmouth County as part of the Prevention Coalition of Monmouth County’s ‘Overdose Awareness Day Is August 31st’ initiative,” she said.
“Behind the flags is the Alliance’s banner reminding you to promptly get rid of unwanted medications. Thanks go out to Howell Township Police Department’s Cadets for assisting with the banner and flags while social distancing outside,” Riddle added.
Unwanted medications can sometimes end up in the wrong hands, which is a contributing factor to the opioid epidemic.
“We usually have an annual candlelight vigil at Echo Lake for Overdose Awareness Day, but with social distancing, this was not possible this year. Instead, we did the display at town hall for Route 9 visibility, social media posts, and a Howell Township proclamation recognizing Aug. 31 as Overdose Awareness Day,” she said.
The proclamation was read by Howell Mayor Theresa Berger during a recent Township Council meeting.
Riddle noted that in addition to the message of overdose prevention, the day would also include a focus on properly disposing unwanted medications. “All unwanted medications get dropped only at Howell Police Dept, 300 Old Tavern Road. The 24/7, anonymous Project Medicine Drop box is in the lobby. They cannot be left at any other township building.”
“This is an ongoing campaign for the Howell Alliance, in partnership with the Howell Police Department. There are three disposal options: using the anonymous Project Medicine Drop available 24/7 in the Howell Police Department lobby, getting free Dispose Rx packets from the Howell Alliance to keep on hand for immediate at-home disposal, and calling the Howell Police non-emergency number 732-938-4111 to schedule a police officer pick-up at the residence for those who cannot get out,” Riddle said.
“Getting the information out there is key, and teamwork across the Howell community makes a difference,” Riddle added.
Riddle frequently uses the Alliance’s Facebook page to release helpful information about addiction issues and preventative measures that can be taken. She recently posted about some of the risk factors of addiction to be mindful of:
- 90% of people with addictions started using substances as teens
- Family history of addiction
- Mental health concerns
- Behavioral/impulse control problems
- Exposure to trauma
- Easy access to substances
- Exposure to culture of use
Riddle also provided a post about the dangers of vaping. She noted that a June Stanford University School of Medicine study confirmed that young people who vaped were five to seven times more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than those who did not use e-cigarettes.
The increased risk comes from vaping-related lung and immune system damage, hand-to-face and hand-to-mouth contact while vaping, and sharing e-cigarette devices.
“If you know someone who needs support quitting vaping or smoking, reach out to the Howell Alliance for free resources by calling 732-938-4500 ext. 4012,” Riddle added.
Overdose Awareness Day is Aug. 31 and the sign in front of the Howell Township Municipal complex was provided by the Prevention Coalition of Monmouth County. “They also provided the flags and purple sign to municipalities willing to participate. Howell was the first to have ours up. Members of the Howell Police Department Cadets under the guidance of Officer Jayme Higgins, were responsible for setting up our flags display.” Riddle said.
For more information on cleaning out your medicine cabinet to save lives, visit twp.howell.nj.us/537/Safe-Prescription-Disposal. The Alliance also has free DisposeRx packets for instant and easy at-home disposal. Call 732-938-4500 ext. 4012 to get your packets.