Howell in all-out attempt to combat heroin abuse

Staff Writer

Howell officials and police are continuing their efforts to educate residents about the dangers of heroin and have produced a public service announcement (PSA) in conjunction with those efforts.

“Stop Heroin. Start Talking. Say No.” was produced through the efforts of the Howell-Farmingdale Municipal Alliance and its coordinator, Ralph M. Hoffman Jr., as well as the Howell Township Council and the Howell Police Department.

The announcement seeks to educate young adults about the dangers of heroin by having reallife accounts told by former addicts, Howell Police Lt. Thomas Rizzo said.

“This is the first time in my career that I saw such a coalition between the township and the Police Department to try and take hold of an issue that has reached the level of being an epidemic. Heroin addiction is truly a disease,” Rizzo said.

The PSA was shown at backto school nights in the Howell K- 8 School District, more specifically at the middle school level, according to Superintendent of Schools Joe Isola. He said parents praised the video and encouraged school administrators to show it to students.

The video has moved to social media, where it has received several comments and was shared among other individuals in the community, according to municipal officials.

“We are trying to change the rules of the game and to put a message out there by showing the public real people’s lives and stories through this video instead of actors,” Rizzo said.

“In the PSA we have recovering addicts, a mother of a deceased heroin victim, and members of the police force and town council.

“I think the way in which the video was produced gives the issue a more multidimensional view because the addicts featured are not hard criminals, but average people who fell into addiction,” he said.

Another purpose of the PSA is to make people who use heroin and other drugs aware of the consequences of their behavior, Mayor Bill Gotto said. “The main message in the PSA is that we will do anything we can to save you and everything we can to prevent the use of the drug, but if you continue [using it], we might not be able to save you and if we do save you, you will get arrested for use,” Gotto said.

To view the PSA video, visit the website and click on the link under the home page.

Rizzo said some drug users have become emboldened in their behavior because they know police officers and other emergency responders are now using Narcan, which can reverse the effects of a drug overdose.

“While we are grateful to have Narcan in the township so we can assist with helping people who may have overdosed, we are aware of the fact that having this will not stop the problem,” he said. “In fact, kids who overdose and see us coming do not seem to really care anymore, which is a big problem.

“It is like if you have a car and the battery keeps going dead … there are only a certain number of times you can jump it to work again. We need to work more on educating our kids and showing them the facts.”

Beginning in November, the Police Department will be working to organize a criminal investigation unit to begin a heroin investigation program in Howell, according to Rizzo.

“Due to the fact that we have recently sworn in several new officers, we are able to make this specific unit dedicated solely to the heroin epidemic and go to schools to educate children about the problem,” the lieutenant said.