PATERSON, NJ – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker convened a statewide summit today to explore solutions to the heroin and opioid addiction epidemic gripping New Jersey and the nation. Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09), Acting State Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett, representatives from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), local law enforcement, the medical community, addiction services providers, and mental health advocates participated.

“Too many New Jerseyans have fallen victim to addiction. Too many lives have been lost. Too many families torn apart,” said Sen. Menendez. “We need an ‘all hands on deck’ approach, including physicians, nurses, patients, families, law enforcement and communities. Successfully addressing our nation’s, and our state’s, opioid addiction crisis requires us to be creative, to think outside the box, about how to not only serve those individuals battling an addiction, but to effectively prevent addictions in the first place.”

"Heroin addiction and opioid abuse have reached epidemic levels in the United States, and it is tearing individuals, families and communities apart. Last year, opioids including heroin killed over 28,000 people in the U.S., which is greater than any year on record,” said Sen. Booker. “I was pleased to have this important, substantive conversation with legislators, advocates, and other community leaders today, which has strengthened my commitment to fighting for federal resources that support law enforcement efforts as well as education and treatment funding so that, together, we can tackle this crisis head on.”

"As a former mayor and a member of the Congress' Heroin Task Force, I believe that opioid addiction is an epidemic that requires immediate action," Rep. Pascrell said. "I have heard far too many stories about how drug abuse is hurting young people, children, and families. That is why I commend St. Joseph's for their efforts to virtually eliminate the use of prescription painkillers in their emergency department and instead treat pain using alternative methods. However, we ‎must do more on the federal level to invest the necessary money and resources to combat this problem. In the Congress, I will continue to push for robust funding for programs that aim to prevent and treat substance abuse."

List of participants:

Federal Government
· U.S. Senator Bob Menendez
· U.S. Senator Cory Booker
· U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. (N.J.-09)
· Dennis Romero; Regional Administrator, SAMHSA
· Dir. Chauncey Parker; NY/NJ High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, DEA
· Special Agent Chris Jakim; DEA

State/County Government
· Acting Commissioner Cathleen Bennett; N.J. Dept. of Health
· State Senator Raymond Lesniak
· State Senator Nellie Pou
· State Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly
· Capt. Juan Colon; N.J. State Police
· Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes
· Monmouth County Prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni
· Passaic County Undersheriff Joseph Dennis
· Robert Nixon; N.J. Police Benevolence Association

Medical Providers
· Mishael Azam; COO, Medical Society of N.J.
· Deborah Hartel; Behavioral Services, St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center
· Dr. Mark Rosenberg; Chair of Emergency Medicine, St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center
· Elizabeth Ryan; President & CEO, N.J. Hospital Assoc.
· Kevin Slavin; President & CEO, St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center
· Dr. Alexis LaPietra; Dir. of Pain Mgmt., St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center

Treatment Professionals
· Richard Bowe; Executive Dir., Addiction Professionals Cert. Board
· Robert Budsock; President & CEO, Integrity House
· Pamela Capaci; Executive Dir., Prevention Links
· Meagan Glaser; Deputy State Dir., Drug Policy Alliance
· Ed Martone; National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
· Alan Oberman; CEO, John Brooks Recovery Center
· Mike Santillo; Administrative Dir.; Eva’s Village
· Angelo Valente; Executive Dir., Partnership for a Drug Free N.J.
· Debra Wentz; CEO, N.J. Assoc. of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies

The meeting followed the announcement of the Alternatives to Opiates Program (ALTOsm) at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, the nation’s first Emergency Department-based approach to acute pain management without the use of opioids and the potential addictions associated with opioid use.