The Mercer County community is rallying around a nation wide epidemic.
The Community Park in Robbinsville hosted the third International Overdose Awareness Day Tuesday evening. The annual event aims to provide support, awareness, and healing to those affected by the opioid epidemic. Nearly 300 Mercer County residents experienced guest speakers, musicians, and a candlelight commemorative vigil.
Chris Smith, the U.S. Congressman for New Jersey’s 4th District, attended the event and encouraged residents of all ages to do the same.
“I think there needs to be an aggressive effort to enlighten our high schoolers, junior high, even elementary school students about these dangers,” Smith said.
“We need to tell them to not cross the line,” Smith explained. “If you do, you don’t want to be there, and you can’t get away.”
The Congressman, who’s attended several drug awareness conventions, felt Mercer Counties was particularly unique.
“This was a mobilization,” Smith said. “I’ve been to other drug initiatives and all of them are good, but this one is uniting a community like few others.”
Angelo Onofri, the Mercer County Prosector, views the affair as a platform towards a brighter future.
“Once we start talking about addiction, and start talking about losing loved ones, then we can really spring into action,” Onofri said. “Once we do that, we can really start helping people.”
In total, 108 Mercer County residents were victims to overdose deaths in 2018.
“When you work in prevention of course you would love to work yourself out of a job,” Melissa Arnold, the Program Coordinator for Drug Free Communities, said. “Unfortunately our county is not in that place right now, and this event will continue to reach out and support those who are in recovery.”