Parish presentations on preventing drug abuse

Detective Ed Walto from the Cherry Hill Police Department speaks at a program on drug abuse April 26 at Saint Andrew the Apostle Church in Gibbsboro. Similar programs will be held at Camden Catholic High School, Cherry Hill, on May 17, and McDaid Hall, Westmont (Saint Teresa Parish, Collingswood) on May 24.
Photo by Alan M. Dumoff

Thirteen percent of eighth graders, and 40 percent of 12th graders, claim that they can easily get access to prescription painkillers. And the price of heroin in Camden is cheaper than such painkillers.

These were some of the surprising, and shocking revelations during an addiction awareness program for parents and their student children at Saint Andrew the Apostle Church in Gibbsboro, on the evening of April 26.

Presented by the Samost Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Southern New Jersey, the event, called “Right in Our Backyard,” included testimony from Elana Dobrolowski, an addiction specialist; Detective Ed Walto from the Cherry Hill Police Department; Sue D’Ambrosio and Gregg Wolfe, parents who lost their children to drug overdoses; and Stephanie, an addict currently in recovery.

“The talks were effective; they scared the living daylights out of me,” said Jim Hemschoot, Director of Religious Education at Saint Andrew’s. He worries about his two children, 21 and 19 years old, and the prevalence and ease of obtaining drugs such as heroin and marijuana.

“I talk to them a lot” about staying away from drugs, and he will share the evening’s lessons with them, he said.

As well, one can be a functioning addict, as it were, and appear fine, and maintain respectable school grades, “until they hit rock bottom, or it’s too late,” he learned, along with the parents and their middle- and high school-aged children gathered. Knowing who your children’s friends are, and consistent family time, is also essential for a healthy family environment

“Right in Our Backyard” has been offered by the JFCS for the past three years to 1,500 individuals in 24 programs.

“Painkillers and heroin are becoming a serious challenge to youth and young adults,” said Marla Meyers, the executive director of JFCS. “With these eye-opening panels, we are saving lives, and families.”

Gibbsboro’s evening on drug awareness is just one such program to take place in the Diocese of Camden aimed at educating parents and youth about these dangers.

This Wednesday, May 17, 6-8:30 p.m., Camden Catholic High School in Cherry Hill will hold a presentation on “Prescription Opioids and Heroin Abuse: Responding to the Problem That’s Killing Our Neighborhoods.”

On Wednesday, May 24, at 7 p.m., “Saving Lives: Understanding the Opioid Crisis,” sponsored by the Health Ministry of Saint Teresa of Calcutta Parish, will take place at Holy Saviour Church, McDaid Hall in Westmont. Dr. Al Rundio, an addiction nurse specialist and past president of the International Nurses Society on Addiction, will be the guest speaker. No registration or fee is required. For information, contact