Purple Flags Honor Overdose Awareness Day

Howell Police Cadets assist with placing the purple flags outside the Township’s municipal building. (Photo courtesy Howell Alliance)

HOWELL – In honor of International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31, purple flags decorated the lawns of many municipalities, including Howell Township, to remember those who lost their life due to a drug overdose.

  “As overdose deaths rise to previously unthinkable levels, both here in Monmouth County and nationwide, it’s so vitally important to resist discouragement and continue to do absolutely everything in our power to mitigate the human toll of this epidemic,” Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey said. “A big part of that is promoting remembrance: reminding our community that each person lost is not some nameless, faceless statistic, but a dynamic individual who leaves behind hopes, dreams, and friends and family members who remain devastated by their absence.”

  The Overdose Awareness Campaign, held by the Prevention Coalition of Monmouth County, aims to bring awareness to this epidemic and support community members one town at a time. The Coalition’s goal is to reduce substance abuse in Monmouth County by providing awareness, education and advocacy through collaborative efforts to ensure healthy, safe and drug-free lives.

  For the past three years, the Coalition has been running the campaign which continues to grow. This year they have 43 of Monmouth County’s 53 towns participating in the project, which is 7 more than the year before.

  According to statistics compiled by the New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies (NJ CARES), a total of 79 people have died due to a drug overdose in Monmouth County during the first half of 2022.

  Between 2012 to 2021, an estimated 1,500 lives were lost countywide due to a drug overdose with the highest total hitting 215 in 2018.

  In Howell Township, there was a total of 26 non-fatal and three fatal overdoses that occurred between January 1 and June 30.

  Once again, the Howell Alliance is participating in the campaign and the Howell Police Cadets have assisted with placing the purple flags outside the Township’s municipal building. In addition, the Howell Alliance will present a Governing Body and Township Mayor Proclamation to recognize International Overdose Awareness Day.

  One initiative the Howell Alliance carries out is their Project Medicine Drop. They participate in the spring and fall DEA Prescription Drug Take-Back Day partnering with the Howell Police Department. Most recently, they collected 1,684 pounds of unwanted medications.

  The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office also plays a lead role in combating the local opioid epidemic. In 2014, they became the second count in New Jersey to train all of its police officers on the use of naloxone, a nasally administered chemical that works to quickly and safely reverse the effects of an overdose. As a result, they’ve administered naloxone on more than 2,600 occasions from 2017 through the first quarter of 2022, with a majority of the recipients surviving.

  In 2022, they hosted the first graduation ceremony for its newly established Recovery Diversion Program. The program that substitutes peer recovery and treatment services for nonviolent municipal court offenders, rather than traditional prosecution.

  “This epidemic didn’t develop from just one cause, and fixing it won’t be the result of just one solution,” Acting Prosecutor Linskey said. “We remain deeply committed to leveraging innovation toward addressing it from every conceivable angle.”

  If you or your organization is interested in having a display of remembrance flags arranged for your grounds, you can contact Prevention Coalition of Monmouth County Regional Coordinator Kaitlin McCarthy directly at kmccarthy@preventionfirst.net.

  For additional details on Howell’s observance of International Overdose Awareness Day or substance use/mental health information, contact Howell Alliance Coordinator Christa Riddle at 732-938-4500 x4012 or criddle@twp.howell.nj.us.