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County Strengthens Fight Against Drug Abuse, Overdoses Through New Study Team

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By Press Release

COURT HOUSE – Cape May County officially established the Cape May County Opioid Fatality Review Team Oct. 5 to better understand and address overdose fatalities in our community and identify innovative ways to prevent those deaths in the future. 
According to a release, the Cape May County Health Department (DOH) has received $100,000 in funding and support from the New Jersey Department of Health through an award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to establish an Overdose Fatality Review Team (OFRT) and address opioid abuse.
Currently, Cape May County has a group of dedicated individuals collaborating from all aspects of the community involved in the fight against the opioid epidemic. According to Freeholder Jeff Pierson, “the county started public forums on this topic, in 2013, to involve families and professionals in the system to better understand the disease and its impact in Cape May County.” 
The Prosecutor’s Office also began a school education program entitled “Pills to Heroin,” and presented this program to every school in Cape May County, reaching 17 different schools in the county and over 5,500 students and staff members. A coalition of educators, law enforcement, prevention agencies, and the county Department of Human Services developed a “PRIDE Committee” to focus on educating school staff regarding trauma and substance use disorder.
Other OFRT partners committed to this cause include, but are not limited to, Departments of Social Service and Human Services, Acenda (formerly Cape Counseling), Cape Assist, the Prosecutor’s Office, superintendent of schools, Cape Regional Medical Center’s CARES program, drug/recovery Court, local police departments and EMTs, faith-based organizations, and family members of those living with substance use disorder.
Based on the Maryland Localized Fatality Review Team’s model and in consultation with the expertise of the New Jersey Department of Health, the Cape May County multi-agency/multi-disciplinary OFRT is assembled to conduct confidential reviews of multiple individual overdose death cases in compliance with all applicable state and federal privacy and confidentiality legal requirements. 
The overall intent of the OFRT is to improve the quality of referral systems, enhanced outreach to families to provide overdose prevention and treatment services by local health departments and other providers, identified new audiences for Overdose Response Program (naloxone) training, and amplified overdose awareness.
“As an agency that works to improve the health of our community through service and partnership, we are excited that the County Health Department is facilitating the Cape May County Overdose Fatality Review Team process,” stated Pierson. “We know that it is through partnerships and collaboration that we can have an impact on such a complex issue. We are encouraged by the number of partners who have come together from across our community with a sense of urgency and determination to address this issue.”
“The information about substance use, overdose deaths and targeted prevention strategies that will come from the overdose fatality review process are so valuable for guiding the action of the Opioid Fatality Review Team,” stated Cape May County Health Officer Kevin Thomas. “With this information, we will be able to implement changes that will improve outcomes and save lives in our county.”

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