editor@montynews.com
advertising@montynews.com
Phone:(908)874-0020
Fax: (908) 874-0032
Montgomery News
A hometown paper
serving
Montgomery Township
and Rocky Hill, NJ

Tuesday January 23, 2018

 

Montgomery News Directory

Sharp Uptick in Township Residents Seeking Treatment for Heroin Abuse

Montgomery residents seeking treatment for heroin addiction spiked to 53 people in 2016—a substantial increase from three people in 2015—according to data released by the NJ Department of Human Services (DHS).


The harsh figure is the highest ever recorded in Montgomery, and means there are now two times as many people seeking relief from addiction to heroin and other opioids than from alcoholism in this rural community of highly educated, wealthy individuals.


Local police and substance abuse treatment professionals have expressed everything from disbelief to pledges of help when reviewing the cold figures, which conform to the nationwide opioid epidemic.
Montgomery Police Lt. James Gill says police have not experienced a correlated increase in the number of associated "drug-use" crimes one would expect with a large increase in the number of opioid users. Driving Under the Influence (DUI), burglaries of either homes or cars, and drug overdose rescues have remained consistent in the township over the last few years.


"There's no way these numbers can be correct," Gill says, shaking his head during a meeting at police headquarters on Rt. 206 in Belle Mead. "This number is staggering to me. This does not seem conceivable."


Montgomery Emergency Medical Services (MEMS) and the police have successfully used the life-saving antidote naloxone (Narcan(r)) to reverse 13 unintentional opioid overdoses since 2010. In a town of nearly 21,000 people, this is a serious problem, but it does not seem to indicate an epidemic, Gill says.
While the police would not give the names of the overdose victims, they did say the victims ranged in age from 16 to 50; two were female, 11 male. "We are here to help them, not to arrest them," says Police Director Thomas L. Wain. "The problem is a disease, and we will facilitate treatment for them."


Wain cited the recent New Jersey Good Samaritan drug overdose law, which grants immunity to addicts who overdose and to the person who dials 911 or otherwise seeks help. "But you have to call," Wain says. The law, signed in 2013, is in place to "encourage people who may be high on drugs themselves, to do the right thing when a life is in danger."


"We will do whatever it takes," Wain says. "We are open 24-7, so we are here at 2 am on a Saturday when you may need help."


The police did not have figures on opioid-related deaths in Montgomery, nor did the NJ Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services. The division collects and monitors abundant data through the Web-based New Jersey Substance Abuse Monitoring System (NJSAMS). Addiction treatment providers, including detox hospitals, residential programs, halfway houses, and outpatient care centers, are required to report admissions data on the system.


Across New Jersey, heroin and opioids killed about 2,000 people in 2016, according to NJ Advance Media. Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, morphine, and many others, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Montgomery resident and Carrier Clinic CEO Donald J. Parker says he believes the heroin treatment numbers of 2016 are accurate. "We are one of the treatment centers that reports numbers to the state," he says. Carrier is a private, non-profit clinic that specializes in psychiatric and addiction treatment and serves more than 6,000 patients annually. It is one of the largest providers of substance abuse treatment in the state.


"I think what happened is that we were extremely low in 2015," with only three Montgomery residents seeking treatment for heroin addiction, Parker says. The 2016 numbers are still in the lower quadrant when compared to other communities statewide.


"I think Montgomery was insulated (from the opioid epidemic) due to the strength of family values," he says. "I live in Pike Run and I walk all the time. I see moms and dads out walking with their kids and often with the grandparents as well. As much as you try to protect your family members, the addictive properties of this drug are so strong that it eventually got to Montgomery."


The pathway to opioid addiction often begins with a trusted source—the family doctor. "Physicians have not historically written the number of prescriptions they write today," Parker says. "Pain has become a fifth vital. Doctors will ask: 'how do you rate your pain?' And, they are graded on their ability to ease that pain.


"And, a number of pharmaceutical companies—some of them in our area—have aggressively marketed opiate painkillers to our doctors," he says. Gov. Chris Christie has looped in pharmaceutical companies in his campaign to fight opioid abuse.


The opioid story is well told and known in Montgomery, but the science of addiction is just unfolding.
Puzzling, for example, is why some people develop all-consuming compulsions.


"Some people are predisposed, and often have multiple addictions," says Steven J. Drzewoszewski, director of the 40-bed Blake Recovery Center at Carrier Clinic in Belle Mead, which is on the frontline of battle against opioid abuse.


While opioids are highly addictive, Drzewoszewski says he believes many more people in Montgomery actually suffer from alcoholism. Alcohol abuse goes underreported, he says, because it is more socially acceptable and people seem to remain functional for a longer period of time.


"People get heavily addicted to opioids very fast," he says. It could take an alcoholic, "30 years to seek a first treatment, where an opioid addict has about a two-year progression before seeking their first treatment."


Therapists say the warning signs are more obvious with heroin abuse as well, with the family home often operating in "lock down" mode as money and valuables begin to go missing.
While no one is able to answer the question for sure regarding the dramatic increase in Montgomery residents seeking treatment for heroin addiction, Department of Human Services Spokesperson Ellen Lovejoy says the data in the report are accurate.


When asked point blank whether the state agency may have made an error when tabulating the numbers for Montgomery Township in 2015 or 2016, Lovejoy said, "The data is extremely reliable."


SIDEBAR
One reason heroin addiction is rising, other than the obvious – doctors overprescribe it - is simple economics. In many cases, opioid prescription duration is for just long enough to result in addiction in those susceptible to it. Addicted patients are commonly refused prescription renewals and find that heroin bought on the street is cheaper than legally prescribed opioids. Also, as cited in a recent New York time story, many insurance companies have been willing to pay for the more powerful—and addictive—opioids such as Oxycontin, but not the more expensive but less addictive alternatives. Oddly, they also pay for addiction treatment. Go figure.


According to the National Council on Alcohol Abuse, more than 6% of American adults are alcoholic. It's not unlikely that an alcoholic on opioids would very quickly find himself hopelessly addicted.
Meanwhile, there are self-help groups available locally at the 24-Club of Princeton on Montgomery Rd. in Skillman, among other locations. An Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meeting list is printed on the pages of the Montgomery News every month and available online at www.24club.org. Meeting lists for Narcotics Anonymous are also available online at www.narcoticsanonymousnj.org and www.nnjaa.org. The life you save may be your own.


The Montgomery/Rocky Hill Municipal Alliance talks a great game and just received a $19,000 grant from the State. Perhaps they could coordinate something being done in 300 municipalities in 31 states called "Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative," under which authorities reach out to find treatment for addicts who ask for help instead of locking them up.


 

More Featured Articles

Prepayment of 2018 Property Taxes

To All Montgomery Township Residents:

Please be advised, in order to be of greater service to Montgomery residents, we are accepting prepayments of 2018 property taxes. To make a prepayment, please come to the tax window at the Municipal Building. Our office hours this week are 12/27/17 & 12/28/17 8:00-4:30 and 12/29/17 8:00-2:30.

Thank you,

Michael W. Pitts Jr., CPA, CMFO, CTC, QPA
Chief Finance Officer / Tax Collector
Montgomery Township
2261 Route 206, Belle Mead, New Jersey 08502
908-359-8211 Ext 277
908-874-4573 Fax
mpitts@twp.montgomery.nj.us
 

Two MTPD Sergeants Sworn In

The Montgomery Police promoted two officers to the rank of sergeant at the Thursday, December 21 Township Committee building.


Police Captain Thomas Wain introduced the newly-appointed sergeants, Ryan Gray and Sean Sullivan, who were each joined by their children ahead of their swearing-in ceremonies. Oaths were administered by Township Attorney Kristina Hadinger.


Wain said the entire police force commends the two sergeants. He has watched Gray and Sullivan grow in their careers into officers of the law respected throughout the township and among all ranks.


"Seeing the things they have contributed to this organization, it has been fun as they've become leaders. I can talk about our MTPD philosophy or mission statement but we are not there at 2 am on a patrol. These are the guys making decisions under very difficult circumstances to do the job right. They do this job right all the time and they are respected by everybody in this room. They will only continue to do the great job they have been doing," Capt. Wain said.


He added that the Township Committee plays a key role in developing police leadership. "The Committee gets involved, they want to know these officers and they are committed to getting the right people in the right positions of leadership," Wain said. He explained that Committeewoman Christine Madrid has spent many hours from May to December reviewing police personnel files with himself, Township Administrator Donato Nieman and Lieutenant James Gill.


"She has asked several very appropriate questions about personnel and that tells me she is locked in on her task of getting the right persons for this position. Thank you very much for your time and effort in this process Ms. Madrid," Wain said on December 21.


Mayor Ed Trzaska also thanked Committeewomen Madrid and Patricia Graham for working with the police department leaders.


"There is nothing to be taken more seriously or is more important than working with our police and the quality of it, decisions on who we hire and who is promoted. The sergeants' round is extremely difficult as you have four truly outstanding candidates for two positions. It took us a long time to decide - congratulations to everyone and you guys are a true gem in our community and the police force is really helping to make Montgomery Township a special place," Traszka said.


Lt. Gill presented the police data report for November 2017 to the Committee on December 21. He said for the month there were 885 motor vehicle stops by the MTPD, and 345 of those resulted in drivers being issued a summons. There were also 65 motor vehicle accidents in the township in the 30-day period. The Montgomery Police responded to 96 burglar alarms in November.


A total of 185 criminal investigation reports took place, with 10 thefts in November resulting in claims of $16,000 stolen. Gill said the key issue police investigated was the theft of wheels and tires from new and used vehicles at car dealerships in Montgomery. "It is sporadic and we get a few of them each year, and we do usually get pretty hard in the month of November here," Gill said.
 

Rich Smith Honored at His Last Committee Meeting

At the December 21 Township Committee meeting, Mayor Ed Traszka read a resolution honoring six-year Committeeman Rich Smith for his service to the community, listing positions and committees Smith has held or served on over the years: "Rich served as mayor (2014) and deputy mayor on Township

Committee, Planning Board Class I and Class III, Zoning Board of Adjustment, Site Plan and Subdivision committee, Transportation Advisory Committee, Local Emergency Planning Council, liaison for the Economic Development Commission, Recreation Commission as liaison, Sewer Committee, Wildlife Management Committee, Master Plan Land Development Update Committee, Budget & Finance, and also Board of Fire Prevention Committee."


Traszka thanked Smith on behalf of the entire Committee and wished him a fond farewell. "Rich Smith performed the duties and obligations of public service and he has given his utmost to the people of Montgomery, who in turn benefitted from his experience, knowledge and love for this community."
Police Captain Thomas Wain also congratulated Committeeman Smith at the December 21 meeting and spoke about his lasting impact.


"On behalf of our police department thank you for everything. You have been a good friend to us and you've done a lot of things to advance Montgomery Police. When you toured the department HQ and 'saw how we're living' you looked right at us and said the Committee will do something about it. That was not lip service and it'll be a reality. The force will benefit from that for years to come. Thank you very much Rich," Capt. Wain said.


Smith thanked Wain and said he rose to police captain and has developed "a fantastic team and built a great department." He says the work for the future police headquarters was a clear passion during his time on Committee. Smith first ran for a seat in 2011. Six years later, Smith said he will miss Wednesday phone calls with Township Administrator Donato Nieman, as the two went over many municipal projects and issues. His consistent motivation was explained through parting thoughts.


"I wanted to give back to the community and lend my expertise in design and construction and development to help the town grow in the right direction and in the right place. We were coming out of the 2009 Recession and things were looking good and brewing in town for developments, and I think I brought an independent mind and approach to it. I always tried to do what was best for the township before anything," Smith said.


At the December 21 meeting, he thanked Township Clerk Donna Kukla and Townshi

p Attorney Kristina Hadinger, saying she has "kept the Committee out of legal trouble here in town."
Smith also said he was proud to arrive at the conclusion of a longtime negotiation with Country Club Meadows developments in Belle Mead and "got the stalemate cleared away." The Montgomery Promenade, scheduled to start construction in 2018, is another feat as, "They came back and finally got it approved." On December 21, the Committee discussed the officially-signed L.L. Bean retailer as a flagship of the new mall, along with Frank Theatres.


Smith is also happy to see progress with the township repaving 20% of its roads, 30 to 40 miles of roadway, in his tenure on the Committee. He says another initiative he was happy to work on was having township departments instill a customer service attitude. "When people come to the municipal offices they come here because they need help," he said. He also commented on the new township headquarters property, the former Convatec site, as Smith had evaluated potential for the existing municipal building, "As we tried to restore it to something we could all be proud of. We got to a point where another opportunity came up two miles down the road, and I believe we made a good decision."


Smith said, in 2018 he is looking forward to the promotion he received at work as well as spending more time with his wife and two daughters. His fellow Committee members Mark Conforti and Christine Madrid said the residents may not realize how much time and effort volunteer officials spend on municipal projects.


"We all do this with politics at the local level because we want to contribute to the community. Rich is leaving this place a better place than when he joined the Committee," Madrid said.
 

FREE RABIES VACCINATION CLINIC FOR DOGS & CATS

Sponsored by Montgomery Township Health Department/Animal Control

Protect your pet (and your community)!

 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Montgomery Fire Company #2 New Location!

Located at 529 Route 518 in Blawenburg

 

DOGS: 9:00 am – 10:30 am

CATS: 10:30 am-12:00 noon

 

Dog & Cat licenses will also be available for purchase that day:

$20 for a neutered dog, $23 for non-neutered dog,
$10 for a neutered cat; $15 for a non-neutered cat
cash or check please. 

Community: Somerset County Sheriff phone scam alert

Somerset County Residents are receiving calls from a Lt. Dan O’Brien or Sgt. Dan O’Brien from telephone # 908-505-8872 advising them they have an active warrant and that they need to handle this matter. This individual has asked people to meet with him or purchase vouchers at a CVS to pay off the warrant.

 

Dan O’Brien does not work for the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office and the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office does not take payment vouchers or wire payments for any Sheriff’s Office business.

 

Should you receive a call from this individual or similar individual please contact The Somerset County Sheriff’s Office at 908-231-7140 or your local police department.  

Township Tax Collector Saturday Hours

Due to the tremendous amount of residents looking to prepay their 2018 property taxes, the Tax Office at the Municipal Building will be open on Saturday 12/30/17 from 8:00 am to 11:00 am.
 

Free Tax Form Prep Assistance Starts Feb 12

Free tax return preparation @ the Otto Kaufman Community Center in Skillman

The AARP and the Somerset County Retired Senior Volunteer Program Tax Aide program provides free federal and state tax preparation services with special attention for seniors & lower income residents.

Volunteer tax counselors are trained and certified by the IRS to assist Somerset County residents and workers in preparing their federal and New Jersey income tax returns. These volunteers are ready to help residents of all ages prepare their tax returns. The volunteer training covers all aspects of personal income tax with special emphasis on matters affecting seniors and lower income residents. Volunteers will also assist seniors prepare their PTR (senior property tax freeze) applications. Last year this free service completed over 2150 returns in Somerset County. Our Montgomery site completed 403 of those returns.

Tax returns can be e-filed to assure a safer, more timely refund.

This service will be available at the Otto Kaufman Community Center in Skillman starting February 12, 2017 through April 17, 2017 by appointment only. To make an appointment, please call (908) 541-5710 and ask for the Hillsborough/Montgomery site.

Source: Retired Senior Vol. Program Tax Aide Program 

Big Band Bash Set for Jan. 26

 The Montgomery Township Schools Jazz Bands are hosting their annual evening of great jazz, a 50/50 drawing, tricky trays and tasty delights on Friday, January 26 at 7pm. This popular event benefits the Montgomery Township Band Program and promises to be even bigger and better this year.

Extraordinary school jazz bands and small ensembles from both the Upper Middle School and High School will perform while attendees wander the aisles of auction offerings and tricky trays.

Finger food and a myriad of incredible desserts are included in the price of admission, which is $10 for adults and $5 for children and seniors. There are over 100 items from local businesses and the list keeps growing, including Vera Bradley goods, Tiger’s Tale gift cards, Belle Mead Garage auto detailing certificate, Massage Envy gift cards, and many other fabulous goods and services.

The Montgomery High School Band Program would like to thank the community for its continued tremendous support because without them, the program would not be able to do all the wonderful things they do for their students, like bringing in talented specialists to teach workshops.

So come out and enjoy some great jazz and get some deals on wonderful donated items from local businesses, but most importantly, help support the Montgomery High School Band Program that is so important to students, the school and to all of us.

Source: Montgomery High School Band Parents Association
Contact: Jennifer Pierce
917-459-3755
jennifer@frankveronsky.com

Princeton Skating Club Open House 01/21

January is the National Skating Month. Princeton Skating Club cordially invites you to attend an Open House at the Princeton Day School Lisa McGraw rink (650 Great Road, Princeton, NJ)on 1/21/2018. Come skate with us, meet our members and learn more about group lessons and membership. Skate rentals will be provided for a small fee.

When: Sunday, January 21, 2018 from 2:45 pm to 4:15 pm

Where: Princeton Day School Lisa McGraw Rink (650 Great Road, Princeton, NJ).

For more information visit www.princetonskatingclub.org or contact princetonsc@aol.com 

New Mayor Mark Conforti, Jaffer Inauguration and Future Township HQ Highlight January Re-Org

 At the Township Committee’s annual reorganization meeting held Monday, January 8, Mark Conforti was appointed the mayor of Montgomery for 2018. He takes up the leading role after many years of local volunteer service as a school board member, Planning Board chairman, and over the last several years as the “numbers guy” on the Committee.

Conforti identified three quality of life factors that make Montgomery attractive for families to live in, now known as a “magnet community.” Conforti says it’s due to having one of the best municipally-controlled, professional police forces in the nation; having one of the state’s highest-performing public school districts, and 40% acreage of preserved open space as a driver of keeping a bucolic character across the township.

“There are towns that can claim one of the three factors, and some two, but I don’t there’s places that can claim all three. As long as we keep doing our jobs and administering the town properly this will continue to be a magnet community for years to come and we will be able to weather anything that the state or federal government ‘friends’ have to throw at us… I go into every year wondering what will go wrong to make life difficult for little municipalities in New Jersey however I am optimistic about the year ahead and for the future,” Conforti said.

The Committee welcomed its newest member, Sadaf Jaffer, victor of the November 2017 election and filling the seat previously held by Rich Smith. She was sworn in by Township Attorney Kristina Hadinger as her husband Daniel Sheffield and young daughter Zareen stood with her. They were joined by Jaffer’s mother and father, Batool and Mushtaq Jaffer, who flew in from Chicago for the ceremony.

Committeewoman Jaffer will be the liaison to the Environmental Commission/Sustainable Montgomery, the Shade Tree Committee and the Wildlife Management Committee. Although she is the first Democrat to serve on Township Committee since the start of the decade, Jaffer was adept in her first turn in local politics. At the Monday morning meeting she spread a message of unity among neighbors and across party lines.

“As a Committee member I will aim to serve all of the community with honesty and openness. I will strive to champion diverse perspectives, civic engagement and environmental stewardship. When I first considered running for office some friends were surprised and expressed their wariness about politics. It’s important that we stop discussing politics as a shadowy arena and understand that our elected officials are our neighbors who are representing us at various levels of government, whether it’s here in Montgomery, in Trenton or in Washington, D.C. and we should hold them to those standards. I’ve had the privilege of meeting so many inspiring elected officials, and I am grateful for their mentorship,” Jaffer said.

After a nomination from Committeewoman Patricia Graham, Christine Madrid was appointed as deputy mayor for 2018. Madrid last served as the township’s mayor in 2015 and on January 8 she was sworn in by Hadinger as she stood alongside her husband, also named Daniel, as well as her son Liam and daughter Cassandra.

This year Deputy Mayor Madrid will be the Committee’s liaison to the school board as well as the Board of Fire Prevention and the Budget and Finance Committee.

In January Madrid said two ideas worth exploring for the Committee are a municipal charity to provide tax credits for donations and a ‘Shop Local’ program similar to what Hillsborough has in place, “where residents can get property tax credits at the time they make a purchase at a participating local merchant.”

Over the past six years, Committeeman Ed Trzaska either served as Montgomery’s mayor or deputy mayor each year. Throughout 2017 Trzaska held a total of nine “Meet the Mayor” events with residents across the township. He tells the News in 2018, “I expect Mark to continue with such meetings and I will participate from time to time.”

Some residents believe Jaffer’s election represents a milestone for race, gender and political party representation in township government. Days before the meeting Trzaska was asked about the diversity of the Township Committee. In an email he explained that 31% of Montgomery residents are Asian (with Indian-Americans and Chinese-Americans each comprising 14% of the township).

“Having our elected and volunteer boards/committee represent the diversity of our community is very important. Obviously, my family is multi-racial, so I understand the value of this. We have worked hard to recruit a diverse range of residents to participate in township activities and will continue to do so,” Trzaska said.

At the January 8 meeting, Trzaska spoke about progress the township made in its planning and acquisition of a new municipal building at the former Convatec site off Route 206 and Orchard Road. He detailed the cost factor of renovating the existing municipal building and police station, and said after four years of evaluations and analyses the proper investment is being made.

“This was a big decision, but we could not spend the required $15 million to upgrade the current building, especially since even at that price tag, the final product would not fully meet our future needs.
We are working with Somerset County on the process and will know our construction options in the next several months. There are many benefits with the new location and building. Our police department’s facility will now conform to all state and federal guidelines and be located much closer to our schools,” Trzaska said.

Another key announcement from Trzaska’s January address relays a chance that the Mary Jacobs Memorial Library in Rocky Hill, part of SCLSNJ, has an uncertain future in terms of Montgomery Township usage and funding: “The new (former Convatec) building will also include enough space for a brand new library, which will be run by the county library system,” he said. The Committee previously heard a proposal from two residents, Jessie Havens and George Dorer, to study the potential dimensions and viability of a new library facility for the Orchard Road site.

Committeewoman Graham said she enjoyed working with the Veterans’ Memorial Committee for the first time in 2017 and she looks forward to their efforts this calendar year. She turned the audience’s attention to “dedicated endeavors” to preserve open space and the bucolic nature in Montgomery, in particular with a tract along Route 518 in Skillman that had been zoned for commercial property.

“I believe the continued acquisition of Montgomery’s open space is one of the most significant ways in which we can control the future of our town. I continue to be impressed by the work and dedication of the Open Space Committee. Some of the most recent acquisitions in the past year were, 15 acres from the Kehilat Shalom property in Belle Mead, a 35-acre tract added to the Cherry Brook Preserve and another 35 acres in a particularly significant acquisition off Route 518. That parcel was within the sewer service area and it was being marketed to developers. Instead of a development on that property we have open space, and that will be forever,” Graham said.

Following Conforti’s mention of the police force, Graham commented that Montgomery is fortunate to have such a high-caliber and professional police department. “The township works very closely with the police department and I appreciate the dangerous, difficult work our officers do every day to serve our residents. Thank you!” she said. In her remarks, Deputy Mayor Madrid also noted the promotions of several dedicated, highly-qualified officers into MTPD leadership positions in 2017. “I’m excited to see what they can do in their new roles and it was a pleasure working with the police command staff to make this happen,” she said.

Also affirmed by Committee vote on January 8, this year Mayor Conforti replaces Ed Trzaska as Planning Board Class I member while Trzaska will serve as a Class III member. The Committee also confirmed new Planning Board members Dave Campeas for a four-year term and Chris Confey to a two-year term. Steve DeRochi, chair of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, was re-appointed to the ZBA and confirmed for a new one-year Planning Board term. Former Committeeman Rich Smith was appointed to the ZBA, with a term set to expire at the end of 2020.