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Samost Jewish Family and Children’s Service program wins “Goodman Award”

Samost Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Southern New Jersey has won the 2015 Goodman Award for the program RIGHT IN OUR BACKYARD. The Goodman Award judging committee met today to pick a winner and agreed that this program is creative, sustainable and replicable and addresses an important issue many AJFCA member agencies are experiencing.

Samost Jewish Family and Children’s Service
The Drug Addiction Epidemic in Suburbia- Community Awareness Program ‘Right in Our Backyard’


JFCS has become acutely aware of a new normal’ that has been brewing in our suburbs.  Narcotic addiction, related to prescription pain medicine and heroin, has begun to reach epic levels in our community.  With heroin in our area at its purest levels in the country, addiction had led to a windfall of deaths.  A report in 2013 developed by the Trust for America’s Health r shared two new sets of statistics, one national and the other local.  Each starkly illustrates an epidemic of prescription-drug overdoses, which have quadrupled since 1999 and suggest that what is coming next is resurgence in heroin deaths.   The report showed that between 1999-2010, deaths from prescription opiates like OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin overtook those from heroin and cocaine combined.  The local numbers released in October 2013 by Philadelphia’s Office of Addiction Services showed steady increases in prescription-drug deaths, but an even more dramatic jump in heroin-related deaths which more than doubled between 2010 and 2012.  The vast majority of heroin addicts begin with prescription pain pills, often times legitimately acquired.  Addiction follows.  Then, when the person can no longer afford or acquire the pain pills they turn to a cheap, increasingly potent and uncontrolled alternative-heroin.  After several years with little change, overdose deaths in the Philadelphia region involving heroin increased from 138 in 2010 to 287 in 2012, exceeding last year’s gunshot fatalities.  Admissions for the treatment of heroin addiction also rose in 2012 after a five-year average decline, and now account for 24% of all admissions for drug treatment.  Prevention Point Philadelphia, a needle-exchange  program reports that they used to distribute about one million clean syringes annually, in 2011 that number rose to 1.2 million, in 2012 to 1.7 million and it will likely hit somewhere between 1.8 – 2 million in 2013.  In addition, because the drug can be snorted rather than taken by needle, the stigma has decreased and use has increased.

Additional facts:

  • Heroin found in NJ comes generally from Columbia. And, the heroin that is found in our area and in Philly is 62% pure-the highest purity level in the country.
  • The largest group of people who overdose on narcotics are those 26 years old and younger.  Within the 25-49 year old cohort, drug overdose is the 4th leading cause of death.
  • 13% of 8th graders and 40% of 12th graders in New Jersey say that they can easily get opioids.
  • Most people do narcotics and other drugs in a group, yet most die alone.
  • The Good Samaritan Law in NJ passed by Governor Christie has had some positive effect on saving lives.  The law allows a person to call law enforcement to report an overdose without fear of repercussion.  On April 2 2014, the Governor also launched a Pilot Narcan Program in Ocean and Monmouth Counties that will train and equip police officers to administer the antidote Narcan to persons suffering from an overdose of heroin or prescription narcotics.
  • According to one study, the number 1 reason that young adults don’t do drugs is because “I didn’t want to let my parents down.”
  • Improper or lack of disposal of prescription narcotics in the home is a tremendous problem in suburban communities and more education and ‘drop off’ sites are needed.
  • Funding has been deployed for new mobile naltrexone/vivitrol treatment vans to be deployed throughout the state – methadone clinics on wheels.
  • It is expected that Medicaid will continue to increase its access to substance abuse services.

In the fall of 2013, JFCS participated in a conference focused on educating our local teachers, parents, and physicians about this heart breaking issue.  In relation, the agency developed a new Recovery Chavurah (friendship circle) for families and addicts in recovery and we are the proud sponsors of an upcoming Community Summit to be held on May 19th 2014 offered by Camden County.


In the 2014-2015 fiscal year, JFCS aspires to launch a community awareness program that will focus on our local Jewish community through the synagogues and Jewish organizations (Hadassah, BBYO, etc).  The program will offer a multi-leveled experience for parent and teens.  A panel of experts including a JFCS social worker, an addictions specialist and a parent or young adult will lead each session.  The goal will be to ‘shine a light’ on the prevalence of the issues, normalize discussions on the topic, share warning signs and offer safe and accessible ways to seek guidance and help.  Ultimately, if successful, the program will save lives by increasing awareness, promoting conversation and normalizing the ‘ask for help’.  In year one, JFCS seeks to offer 5-6 workshops.

Proposed Partners:
Squash the Secret   |    Camden County   |   Board of Rabbis   |    ETC