Ocean County hosts heroin addiction forum featuring Richie Sambora in Toms River
TOMS RIVER - Ocean County Prosecutor Joe Coronato hosted a drug forum that he hopes will help crack down on the heroin epidemic there, with the help of a big name.
The event at the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River featured guitarist Richie Sambora from Bon Jovi. He performed a few songs during the forum in an attempt to reach young people and send a message about drugs and how deadly they can be.
With help from the Manchester High School choir, his musical message of "Lean on Me" reverberated through the crowd.
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The New Jersey rocker says he speaks from experience. "Don't do it. Case closed...You know, nobody gets out alive," he says.
DARE vehicles and other displays were set up at the site as county officials hosted one in a series of events meant to educate and communicate.
"We're not going to arrest our way out of it," says Coronato, who was glad to enlist the help of the rock star.
Attendees also heard from others trying to send an important message about drugs.
Maureen Morella, of West Milford, spoke about her son Jesse who survived a heroin overdose 10 years ago. But he remains in a wheelchair, unable to talk or eat. She says it's a reminder that this can happen to anyone who tries drugs, even once.
"Every person we lose is someone's loved one," Morella says. "And I think we miss that sometimes in statistics of it all."
"It's important for people to understand that it's not only what you do, but what you're doing to your family," says Coronato.
Ocean County saw 112 heroin deaths in 2013, which is double the amount the year before.
Richie Sambora debuted a new song called "Lighthouse" during the event. He says he wrote it specifically to help people dealing with substance abuse.