By Dawn M Chiossi
Approximately two million people in this country alone are estimated to be addicted to opioids of some kind. It is a staggering statistic, one that recently launched in June, Essex County Recovery Center Initiative for Opioid Addiction, is doing their best to help make a dent in.
Addiction is the disease that does not discriminate, it affects everyone. The faces of addicts are mothers, fathers, siblings, friends, coworkers, neighbors and loved ones. Addiction not only strips everything away, it often kills.
Ever concerned about this issue, the Essex County Opioid Task Force was the brainchild of Substance Abuse Awareness Coordinator, and Certified Prevention Specialist, Robin Lavorato. Lavorato explains that she formed the Opioid Task Force when she realized the need for community resources in Essex County.
No stranger to aiding others, Lavorato had been working in Morris County as a substance awareness coordinator from September 2009 until August 2018. Additionally, she was involved with Morris County Prevention is Key and CARES programs, as well as their Opioid Task Force.
The mission of the Essex County Opioid Task Force is anything but simple: they seek to prevent the onset of legal and illegal opioid use to prevent addiction, its subsequent disorders, and overdose deaths. Lavorato explains this task force is a common-sense, cumulative one: utilizing the energies and skills of various people and organizations participating in it. The task force is a foundation, a support system. seeking to build on strengths and discover what is needed and improve on that.
Recognizing that the problem of opioid addiction is multilayered, to Lavorato, the goals of the initiative should be too. “Our goals are several fold,” she tells.
Lavorato describes how the initiative seeks to have a liaison from each community in Essex County attend their monthly meetings, that person will then go out into their community, to educate and support. In addition, the Essex County Sheriff’s and Prosecutors office will also attend, sharing information on the state of drug abuse in the county, as well as input from the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.
The initiative engages officials, law enforcement, schools, community, various organizations and residents to support the task force. They all work together on prevention, intervention and treatment efforts. Working to reduce the stigma of addiction, increase awareness of recovery and treatment efforts, and fundraising, this task force does so much.
“It’s all about working together to try to make a difference,” Lavorato asserts.
It sounds like a daunting mission, but to Lavorato it’s a productive one. In the span of these few short months since the initiative has been formed, she shares that the response has been overwhelmingly supportive. When the initiative began the number of attendees was approximately 78 people and the number has steadily grown.
These meetings are not just your standard talks at an impersonal lecture hall, they often take place at venues that have a personal connection. Venues such as The Restoration Center in Newark, Caldwell University, Kessler Institute For Rehabilitation, GenPsych, a behavioral health program in Livingston, and more. Their speakers not only relate the facts regarding addiction, they inspire. In addition to meetings, this the task force sponsors a myriad of events and fundraisers to help in this worthwhile cause.
Lavorato mentions some favorites were October’s Candlelight Vigil from the Nutley Police Department. Along with the support of the football team, they commemorated and remembered those who passed away from substance abuse. She describes the way they sang songs and read poetry to remember their loved ones. “It was very moving,” she says. She also mentions November’s First Annual Opioid Awareness Walk. Not only was the day a wonderful success with over approximately 210 walkers participating, there were many who showed up to inspire, lending their voices to help in the cause. “There was a beautiful young lady in recovery,” Lavorato says and “a mother who lost her 24-year-old son to overdose. We heard from a gentleman who had walked from Newark with his 10-year-old daughter. He was walking to share that recovery is indeed possible. He has 15 years of recovery,” she shares.
The Essex County Recovery Center Initiative for Opioid Addiction shows no signs of stopping. Lavorato shares that they are currently working on a fundraiser and a Grandparent’s Day Out event for the future.
“Everyone can help,” Lavorato enthuses. “Even something as simple as talking to your mayor, police chief (regarding the use of Narcan and the understanding of mental health issues related to drug use), superintendent of schools (regarding drug programs), clergy, even doctors and dentists, (regarding alternatives to opioid treatment) can do so much.”
For further information or details on the initiative, please contact Robin Lavorato 862-485-8811 and firstname.lastname@example.org