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County Overdoses Double, Including Manahawkin Death; Vigil Will Remember The Dead

Ocean County overdose deaths hit 102 this week - nearly twice last year's total amount

Sheryl Santiago heard about another possible drug death Monday, this time in Manahawkin. She didn't know the person, didn't know what really happened.

But she still gasped, and even sobbed a little, as if he was one of her own.

"That's 100, I believe," were the first words she said. Earlier this year, Santiago's 31-year-old son, Erik of Toms River, died after years of prescription-medication abuse.

Later, the news got even worse. Authorities said the Ocean County drug death toll actually climbed to 102, with two more possible pending autopsies.

That's nearly twice last year's amount of 53.

With drugs such as heroin becoming so cheap, and prescription meds so readily available, Santiago is working to "give back," and do something so her son's life can mean so much to others, and even stop others from suffering the same fate.

Santiago is working with the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office and others to hold a vigil for the victims, and their families, on Sunday. The event will be held at 2 p.m., at the St. Paul Lutheran Church, at 130 Cable Ave, or the intersection of Routes 9 and. 166, in Beachwood. 

The event's invitation reads:

"Join with the families of Ocean County/In a Candle Light Service of Remembrance/Of those family members and friends/Who died in 2013 from an overdose."

There, Santiago hope to bring people together who have never known each other before. Somehow, perhaps, they'll try to make sense of all this, however unlikely that is.

"I can't wrap my brain around it," she said. "It's an epidemic."

Everyone is welcome to attend, she said. But she did specifically target people like herself who have lost a loved one, and are still grieving.

"I think about it and it's a terribly bad dream," she said.

Santiago said her son, who lived with her in Toms River, was addicted to Xanax. He got himself off it, but he was told that, in order to get any kind of help, he had to be using.

He told his mother not to worry, that he can control it because the meds aren't like the street drugs that can be more dangerous, but just as lethal.

"Then he went asleep forever," she said.

Tired of this place December 03, 2013 at 07:04 AM
I am so sorry for your loss, I too lost a loved one and this is a really nice thing you are doing . I know drugs are everywhere but it seems to be so concentrated in these small towns manahawkin, barnaget , etc. the way we find out is from Facebook and kids who went to school with these kids and yes I said kids they were someone's child , brother , sister, etc. it is such a sham. These deaths are hitting home! You move from the big city to give your child a nice little suburban life and after high school they seem to get lost. I personally should have never left ny and I didn't know it hit 102 something needs. To be done it's such a waste.
M A December 03, 2013 at 08:25 AM
So sorry for your lose and for the others. A group should speak at the schools. We need to show the pain it causes, all the kids see is the "good time party mode". Before and after photos, loved ones slide show of childhood then nothing, these may make an impression. I speak to my kids practically daily about " the misguided children". Parents need to take a stand, weed out the kids that are trouble and turn them in to their parents. Let the school know to watch them, have the school DARE program have them for a study. TRY Something NEW. Kids and adults can get help and change if they feel they are worth it. Don't give up just change course in approach?
M A December 03, 2013 at 09:36 AM
This is to inform you about a very important presentation that will take place in the Stafford Performing Arts Center (STAC) on Thursday, December 12, at 6:00 p.m. The purpose of the presentation will be to provide participants with a working knowledge of the signs and symptoms of drug abuse, provide insight into the drug problem as it currently exists in Ocean County and to learn how to create an open dialogue with your child about drug use and its consequences. The program is entitled Your Kids Count: Can We Talk? Admission is free but pre-registration is strongly recommended because seating at the STAC is limited. The program is collaboration among the DART Coalition of Ocean County, Barnabas Health Institute for Prevention and The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office. STAC (Stafford Township Arts Center/ Ocean First Theater 1000 McKinley Ave., Manahawkin, NJ 08050 Parents who plan to attend are encouraged to bring their children. Southern Regional students who attend will be given extra-credit in her or his Health and Physical Education class. Attached is a flyer about this program that provides more detailed information, the address of the STAC and the pre-registration link. I know this is a busy time of year for everyone but please check your calendar and try to attend this very important presentation. Register by Dec. 9, seating is limited. Call 732-886-4757 or go to website: www.instituteforprevention.com/dart Sincerely, Craig E. Henry, Chief School Administrator Southern Regional School District Just in my mailbox, thank you Craig!
mr henry December 03, 2013 at 12:09 PM
really...a vigil for the over dose victims? Well I guess that fits in for Stafford where they honor the Mayor who Admitted to being a Liar and Claimed to have a metal of Valor and to be in Vietnam during the War.and the list goes on and on...Only fitting they hold Vigils for the Drug Users too.
Susan December 03, 2013 at 02:33 PM
I am offended by your ignorance. Drug addition is a disease and these people who died were someone's loved ones. Perhaps you should go and learn something. Your attitude is a huge part of the reason we have not been able to fight this problem and win. The amount of ignorance is takes to make the statements you made is amazing but sadly you are not alone. Education is key for our communities. This is a battle and we need to all be in it, id we are to win it. Ignorance is not acceptable. I feel sorry for you Mr. Henry. You lack compassion, intelligence and the ability to see beyond your prejudices. I will pray for you because we all need help from time to time and you need help to see the big picture. Good Luck to you.
mr henry December 03, 2013 at 06:40 PM
Susan your part of the problem , Heck for all we know your a dealer. The true problem in this area is lack of parenting and the people like yourself that as long as its not in your house its just sad. To think that there has never been any education is just Dumb and to think that holding a vigil is the answer to get this under control is dumber. How many vigils have you attended for fallen Hero's in the past. Putting on a hard shell and stiffer penalties is the only way to combat this and your ignorance of those facts is whats really sad here.Good Luck to you and Happy Holidays.
Karen December 03, 2013 at 07:45 PM
drug addiction is a disease? NO cancer is a disease. you dont choose to get cancer, but you choose to do drugs..big difference!!!
Kim Feinstein December 04, 2013 at 03:13 AM
Mr. Henry, no matter how the person died, they lost a life and they have family and friends that love and miss them and need to grieve. I am not sure how old you are but from what you said you must be in your early 20s. So many lives are lost because of drugs and, people do drugs usually because they are depressed and they want to make the pain go away. It is an illness, you do not seem to have any compassion for a human life, and for that I will pray for you and your soul. Then you are proceeding to tell someone that she could be a drug dealer, you are quite immature and you need therapy for your issues and I only hope you get the help you need to become a better person.
Tired of this place December 04, 2013 at 07:11 AM
Mr Henry all I can say to you is you are a very sad person.
mr henry December 04, 2013 at 07:32 AM
Kim Feinstein You seem to be full of hate and ignorance yourself , no where do I say I have a lack of compassion for the lost of the life of any child ,just a lack of support for the community that decides to hold vigils as a cure for the problem. Thanks for praying for my soul but from That I can see you think pray is the answer too so again Id have to say until the penalties are stiffened this will not go away. I wish you also Happy Holidays.
Susan December 08, 2013 at 09:07 AM
On that note Mr. Henry your ignorance is really quite blatant. No I am not a drug dealer. I worked with children. If you have ever seen what drug use does to someone's life, you would never say it was not a disease. People don't choose to die, their disease kills them. I can say that not everyone has the strength to pull themselves out of it but I have seen some pretty miraculous recoveries and I am so grateful for that because people can turn their lives around but it just makes it more difficult with the lack of education leads people to feels horrible about themselves and not want to fight hard for their lives. The vigil is let them know they were loved and that we really do care about people who are suffering and we really do value them and want them to get well and live a life of great value and it can happen but people like you Mr. Henry just need to remember one thing. Its great that you never chose to experiment with drugs. But a huge amount of people do and the ones with the disease get trapped in a deadly lifestyle. That's the difference, after they chose to experiment, that is their last choice. the drugs control them from that point on until many of them die. We need attention brought to this and we need to let them know we love and value their lives and they need to fight. That's all I'm saying. As a society we need to be educated and we need to have empathy for those families who are suffering. Families have a right to love and grieve the loss of their family member. No one said it was a cure for the problem. However I think it does help people to know the seriousness of this problem and we all need to be aware of what we say and how we think . "There for the grace of God go thee."
mr henry December 08, 2013 at 06:23 PM
On that Note Susan your showing your ignorance when you write about your Tolerance for drug abuse .I Know moms like your self that sit and smoke weed with their kids and feel its ok because it is happen at home with them. Driving bus you must see alot of children that need guidance and Im glad your there for them. Myself I say The parents of these children have to look back and see just what they could have done different. Most children get involve in drugs for 5 reasons and 2 of them are drug use in the home but as someone of your education you know that already and are doing all you can to stop children that live in such households Im sure. Keep up your good work and Ill keep pushing for stiffer penalties and punishments.....Have a great Holiday
Susan December 10, 2013 at 10:45 PM
your funny!!! and couldn't be further off base if you tried. I don't smoke anything with or without my kids nor have I ever done that. I think that is repulsive behavior and I do not not approve but it is true that addiction does fall among a genetic line but I was blessed not to have that problem. As I said I think that behavior is disgusting and I do not approve of it. I would never encourage someone with an addiction to use drugs no more than I would bring chocolate cake to my best friend who just started a diet. I just have no interest in using drugs of any kind, be it alcohol, prescription drugs or weed. Just never had an interest in that behavior like a lot of people but I do not Judge others who do and I do realize people have a genetic predisposition to using drugs, be it alcohol, or illegal drugs. I have learned to educate myself so that I could forgive. Have a great Holiday to you as well.

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