To the Editor:
I grew up in Bernardsville. My parents were longtime residents, my mother dying at age 94 just two years ago. I have many pleasant boyhood memories from my early life there. From time to time I visit. Most recently, I picked up your Thursday, November 14th issue. Why? Because a friend alerted me to the drug related deaths of several young people in the “New Jersey Hills”. Why would I care? Almost a year ago our 24-year-old son and brother, William, died of an accidental heroin overdose. At his memorial service we made a pledge to William: “We promise to do everything in our power to educate and inform people about drug abuse and its prevention, to provide ever more enlightened treatment for addicts, to help make treatment options for addicts more readily available, and to remove the stain of shame surrounding this disease.”
I fear addiction is hiding in The Hills. The reality is that drug abuse is an epidemic in our country, and especially in New Jersey. Because of William’s untimely death, I’ve met a number of families in New Jersey who have also lost children or are working night and day at the recovery of family members.
I do not know the cause of death of either of the two young men whose obituaries appeared in your recent issue. It is, perhaps, unfair to speculate. It is no speculation to say that there will be more obituaries of young people in your paper. Their deaths will be due to the silent epidemic in the communities you serve. I urge The Bernardsville News to do everything you can to bring news about drug abuse to the forefront of your coverage. It is not just a national issue. It is a local issue that cannot and must not be denied. You can help remove the stigma attached to the disease, so that families can use their tragedies to help avoid further tragedies amongst their friends and neighbors.
Here are links to two essays I have had published in my current “hometown” paper, The New York Times, on the topic of addiction: http://nyti.ms/18eVkto, http://nyti.ms/1g8ih7W. I regret that my boyhood home suffers from this affliction. Sadly, I am not surprised. I do not honor our family’s pledge to my son if I do not confront addiction anywhere and everywhere I come across it, however veiled, unwanted, and uncomfortable a topic it may be.