Opioid addicts share their stories at recovery conference

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JERSEY CITY -

Recovering opioid addicts shared their experiences Thursday at a recovery conference organized by former Gov. Jim McGreevey.

The speakers at the conference spoke about the despair of opioid addiction and the need for better treatment and justice reform.

Rich Wilder says that he was addicted to heroin for 25 years and that he had to resort to a life of crime to pay for it.

“I was going through $400-$500 a day,” he says. “This last time I was arrested for a bank robbery in Jackson, New Jersey.”

Wilder went to prison for his crimes and was able to get treatment for his addiction. He says that he has been clean since 2014.

Recovering addict Patrick Garrison, also spoke at the conference about his recovery. He says that better mental health treatment is the best way to fight the drug crisis. Statistics show that opioid addiction claimed more than 2,200 lives in the Garden State in 2016.

Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato says that opioid-related deaths dropped 25 percent in the county last year due to improved follow-up care.

“That continuum, as they go through and they track that individual, your outcomes rise and that's what you have to be looking for,” Coronato says.

The conference focused on alternatives to sending addicts to jail for drug offenses. New Jersey's attorney general called for municipal drug courts to get addicts into treatment earlier.

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