The opioid epidemic can be stopped, say experts and recovered victims at Morristown rally

Morris Prosecutor Fredric Knapp speaks at opioid awareness event in Morristown, Aug. 28, 2019. Event organizer Lorena Inestroza, left, and Sheriff James Gannon, right, listen. Photo by Hannah Rose Williams


By Hannah Rose Williams

More than 3,100 people died from drug overdoses in New Jersey last year. Billy McSherry III of Morristown feels fortunate he did not become a statistic–though his heroin habit came with a heavy price.

“I’ve hurt my family. I’ve hurt everybody I’ve loved, all due to my addiction,” McSherry said on the Morristown Green, on International Overdose Awareness Day.

Wednesday’s event marked the fourth year that Morristown has participated, said Lorena Inestroza, an organizer of the presentation.

Every day, on average, opioids claim 192 lives in the United States, “which is why this small setting is valuable for people who are struggling, or for a family member who is struggling, with the disease of addiction,” said Inestroza, who overcame a heroin addiction six years ago.

Speakers included Morris Prosecutor Fredric Knapp, Sheriff James Gannon, Assemblyman Anthony Bucco (R-25th Dist.), and Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty.

Organizations on hand included Clear Conscience Counseling, the Perinatal Addictions Prevention Project and the Sheriff’s Hope One project.

GET help: Contact Morris County Human Services, 973-285-6867

Statewide, overdose deaths increased by 15 percent last year. The numbers were down slightly in Morris County, decreasing by 3 percent in 2018.  So far this year, 51 overdose deaths have been reported countywide, according to Sheriff Gannon. That’s on pace for a 4 percent decrease.

“Numbers can be tricky sometimes, but we are seeing a little bit of a downturn in Morris County, I think as a result of about 12 programs that we have operating here today, which are doing a great job,” the sheriff said.

His Hope One van, which delivers rehab information to communities, came to the Green. Earlier in the week, Gannon’s office trained Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11th Dist.) to administer Narcan, the life-saving antidote to opioid overdoses.

From left: Robert Davison, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris Counties; Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill Sherrill; 11th District Director Kellie Doucette, and Morris County Sheriff James Gannon at Narcan training session at Sherrilli’s Parsippany office, Aug. 26, 2019. Photo courtesy of the Sheriff’s Office.

Throughout Wednesday’s event, representatives from various organizations stressed there is no single method for overcoming addiction; every person is different and a variety of approaches may work.

“I always needed to turn my life around, and I blamed everybody else for my problems except for myself. And in the end I had to realize it was me,” said McSherry, who swore he never would get hooked…before he started using heroin with his father.

“Today, I live a different life. I am a pure recovery specialist. I help as many people as possible, which in turn helps me as well and keeps me grounded. I would do anything to help anybody,” he said.

Correspondent Hannah Rose Williams is a rising sophomore at the Morristown-Beard School.

The Morris County Sheriff’s Hope One Van at opioid awareness event in Morristown, Aug. 28, 2019. Photo by Hannah Rose Williams

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  1. This was a really great event, raising much needed awareness to the opioid epidemic that is plaguing our youth and seniors.

    Morristown had 10 overdoses last year, which was the most in the county. That is an unacceptable number!

    As a community, we need to do a better job protecting our youth and seniors from the dangers of opioids and assist our police dept. in stopping these predators that bring these drugs into our community.

    I salute Lorena Inestroza for her dedication in raising awareness of this issue and her dedication to the community as a whole. It’s residents like you that inspire others to get more involved and make a difference.

    “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” John F. Kennedy

    I am very happy that you are running to be our council representative in the 3rd Ward. You have my vote!! Keep up the good work!