NJ shore county launches toolkit to get ahead of anticipated drug overdose spike
Ocean County's population spikes during the summer months, along with the odds of a drug overdose.
To get ahead of the problem in 2023, county officials have announced the launch of a "summer overdose spike toolkit." The county health department wants to get it in the hands of businesses and those who may be running public events during the tourist season.
The 14-page resource offers tips on how to reduce the chances of a fatal overdose on site, and lists resources and facts that can be posted for the public to view.
"A significant percentage of our overdoses do happen in the home, but there's still a percentage that happens out in the community," Kimberly Reilly, the Ocean County Health Department's alcohol and drug coordinator, told New Jersey 101.5.
The county recorded 186 suspected overdose deaths in 2022. Typically, the county averages five fatal or non-fatal overdoses per day. That average ticks up during the summer, when the population of the county more than doubles to 1.3 million people.
"We want everyone to enjoy their summer but we also want to provide the critical resources the toolkit offers because it just may save the life of someone struggling with addiction from overdose," Reilly said.
A common theme throughout the toolkit is the importance of naloxone, aka Narcan, the opioid antidote. It's not just a tool for police and medical personnel — officials urge the public to have the drug on hand, in case they encounter someone who's experiencing an overdose.
The toolkit notes that businesses such as bars and hotels should have naloxone handy — even Airbnb bathrooms should be stocked with the antidote, the toolkit says.
And it advises hotels to hang educational flyers in each room, displaying the signs of overdose. Because overdoses "commonly occur" in hotel/motel rooms, management is encouraged to post the telephone number for Never Use Alone, which provides company over the phone for someone who's using drugs, in case something goes wrong and they need medical attention.
Staff at bars should check the restrooms frequently "for overdose or unusual behavior," the toolkit adds.
And the toolkit reminds businesses, which can then remind the public, of New Jersey's Good Samaritan Law — in most cases, you can not get in trouble with the law for calling to report an overdose.
The toolkit is available online and as a hard copy. Health department staff are visiting prime tourist spots in the county to distribute the toolkit and speak to business owners about overdose concerns, Reilly said.