Push for funding to help curb opioid plague


The Town of Kearny will be one of 70 government agencies and NGOs competing for a share of $8.75 million in federal funding to help stop youths from getting hooked on drugs.

Kearny is already hooked into the nonprofit Law Enforcement Against Drugs (LEAD) program that has local cops going into schools to warn kids about the perils of narcotics.

But on Tuesday, Feb. 21, the municipal governing body voted to apply for a fiscal 2017 Drug-Free Communities grant of $625,000 that would cover a five-year period.

If successful, the grant rules require the town to come up with an annual $125,000 match which “can be met through in-kind contributions.”

Before voting, the lawmakers met in private session to discuss what Mayor Alberto Santos later explained as “aspects of the agreement that we would have to enter into (if awarded) related to liability/indemnification obligations.”

Funding would be from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention.

Applications must be filed by March 15 and grantees expect be notified by Oct. 1.

For the past year or so, the Kearny Municipal Alliance, a group of professionals and community volunteers, has been positioning itself – with help from the Hudson County Coalition for a Drug-Free Community and Partners in Prevention – to come up with strategies to combat underage drinking and prescription drug misuse by local youths.

Councilwoman Carol Jean Doyle told The Observer that Kearny – like many other towns – is “under a crisis with opioid abuse. If we get this grant, I hope we can reach some of the families who are hurting.”

Doyle said that two members of the Kearny Municipal Alliance – retired KPD Deputy Chief Jack Corbett Sr. and former Roosevelt School counselor Jane Atchison Mackesy – had pitched the grant proposal.

Although the grant would be targeted to aiding local residents 18 and younger, Doyle said that people of all ages – senior citizens included – have been impacted by the scourge of opioid abuse.

Corbett said the Alliance had been steered in the direction of the federal grant program by its nonprofit mentor Partners in Prevention which recommended enlisting Kearny as a “fiscal agent” as a conduit for funding.

No question, Corbett said, that “Kearny’s had its share” of opioid incidents – which, he added, has prompted the Kearny Board of Health to sponsor several training sessions last year in the use of Narcan, a nasal spray applied to save victims of overdose from heroin and/or prescription painkillers like Oxycontin and Percocet.

The Kearny Volunteer Emergency Rescue Squad has been actively involved in responding to those cases, said squad leader Harry McNeill, the town’s EMS coordinator.

And things have gone from bad to worse, McNeill said, because some of those misusing the opioid have been mixing it with substances like embalming fluid in hopes of getting a bigger kick from the drug.

As a result, where, typically, it took one 2 mg dose of the naloxone spray (that’s the actual FDA-approved anti-opiate drug; Narcan is the brand name), it can now take as many as three shots to revive a victim, just over the course of a one-year time frame, he said.

And while certainly the application of Narcan offers a positive medical development – and no criminal charges can be brought against a victim – McNeill said the downside is that this treatment option does nothing to actively dissuade an abuser from risking a repeat occurrence – and possibly a fatal outcome.




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