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School District, Township, and Local Hospital Join Forces to Fight Opiate Epidemic

The Old Bridge Township Public School District has entered into a partnership with the township and the local hospital to fight the Opiate epidemic.

This marks the first time in recent memory that all three entities have agreed to work together on a township-wide project.

According to Schools Superintendent David Cittadino, the township asked him if the school district could partner with the Municipal Alliance, paying half the coordinator's salary, which would extend the position to a full-time job.

The purpose of the Municipal Alliance is to eradicate illicit drug use and substance abuse throughout the township. Membership includes a mayoral representative, the police chief, president of the Board of Education, the superintendent of schools, local mental health agencies, and private citizens, including youth representatives and individuals recovering from drug and/or alcohol abuse.

"I told the mayor that funding was tight," Cittadino said. "But I asked the mayor if he minded if I reached out to the hospital to help fund the position. It was a perfect marriage."

Cittadino contacted Michael D'Agnes, president of Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center in Old Bridge. He asked him for key resources, programs, and $15,000 to help pay for expanding the coordinator's position with the Municipal Alliance.

"I told him if we're not providing information to students and parents, they will wind up in the emergency room," Cittadino said. "I said, I believe this is a great opportunity for you; it is your civic responsibility to be part of the education process, to explore every opportunity to put together an education plan to assist our young people."

D'Agnes said he is pleased to be part of a collaborative effort with the Board of Education and the township in dealing with this crisis and "to work with youth at an early stage in attempt to educate them on the dangers of substance abuse."

While the specifics of the plan have not been firmed up, the Municipal Alliance will bring in guest speakers and will utilize the hospital's resources, including a tremendous behavioral science program, to bring additional programs to Old Bridge schools.

"The fact that this partnership is taking place says a lot about the level of importance that this holds for the township," said Mayor Owen Henry  "I want to thank everyone for their cooperation in helping to launch forward thinking alliances like the one we have created between the township, hospital, and schools." The invaluable knowledge that the hospital and the schools provide us, strengthen our efforts, and give us the tools needed to fight this epidemic head on."

Township Business Administrator Himanshu Shah pointed out the importance of creating "public private partnerships."

He said that this partnership enables us to "share costs and increase services to fight this epidemic."