State Health Officials Launch Overdose Hotspot Initiative

By: Nazmul Noyim, Follow South Jersey Intern

SOUTH JERSEY – The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) is launching an overdose hotspot initiative, prioritizing areas around the state with a racial disparity in the number of overdose cases. 

The program will run from March through August and is supported by approximately $200,000 as part of a four-year $27.9 million grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The Department identified over 30 overdose hotspot locations and initiated outreach in locations with the highest number of drug-related deaths amongst black residents. According to the Department of Law and Public Safety, there have been 2,893 suspected drug-related deaths in the state and these counties have the highest rates, going over 100.

Essex-     450

Camden-  354

Atlantic-   255

Middlesex-  209

Ocean-     186

Bergen-    186

Hudson-    167

Monmouth-   151

Burlington-   151

Passaic-    143

Union-   114

Mercer-    108

Exxes, Camden, Atlantic, Monmouth, and Passaic counties  also have a higher disparity of death amongst black residents. The number of overdose rates is the highest amongst other ethnic groups, and has increased the most..Below is the amount of deaths by ethnicity per 100, 000 persons from 2020 to 2021.

Ethnic Groups                2020                       2021                   

Black                              54.6                        65.9

Hispanic                         24.6                        25.9

White                             37.7                        34.9

“While no corner of our state has been spared the devastating impact of the opioid overdose crisis, we know that this crisis is having a disproportionate impact on Black and brown communities right now,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “This administration has championed a harm reduction approach to ending the opioid overdose crisis. Getting these critical tools into hardest hit areas will save lives.”

NJDOH is partnering with local organizations to distribute naloxone and fentanyl test strip kits. Health educators will provide engagement for people at risk of overdose to connect them to treatment resources. This initiative builds on the Murphy Administration’s effort to make naloxone accessible, including Naloxone365 which will be available at pharmacies in July.

“We have a program with Cooper Health Care where specialists go out with a van to reach out and help the homeless and the ones in poverty,” said Caryelle Lasher, Director of Health care in Camden County. “ People may not often feel comfortable going to a health center to receive help so we have these vans located in the communities where people get the treatment they need for their addiction.”

NJDOH has analyzed EMS and law enforcement incidents to identify that most overdose happens in transportation centers, correctional facilities, hotels/motels, and apartment complexes.

“In my work, I have seen the devastating effects of substance use disorders coupled with mental health issues,” said Matthew S. Salzman, an emergency medicine physician who specializes in toxicology and addiction medicine at Cooper University Health Care.

“Opioid, heroin, and fentanyl being found in substances are the biggest cause of overdoses,” said Lasher. “ We try to distribute as many fentanyl test kits as possible and provide help to people that can’t afford it. Also, we have an education program that teaches young students about the dangers of narcotics. And we also have programs that work with the prosecutor’s office to help criminals in jail with their substance abuse issues.”

To get more information or to receive supplies contact Outreach Coordinator Mariah Smith at

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