'Not Even Once' Drug Program Implemented at E.H.T. High School

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EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J. -

An Atlantic County police department has joined in on a new program designed to help high school students understand why it's so important to avoid using drugs, as they will learn many drug abusers say they wish they never tried the substances, Not Even Once (NEO).

According to experts, most criminal behavior stems from mental health and drug abuse. Officers with the Egg Harbor Township Police Department say that they've learned drug abusers seem to have one common message.

“Anytime we have conversations with them, they’ll typically be honest with us and say if they could go back in time they wouldn’t try it, ‘Not Even Once,'" said Officer Eddie Bertino, E.H.T. P.D., and NEO instructor.

This is where the new drug abuse awareness program, #NotEvenOnce, comes from. The program originated in Manchester Township. 

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Back in September 2017, Officer Bertino went through the training program hosted by the Manchester Township Police Department to be able to bring the program to Egg Harbor Township High School.

“All of the NEO instructors with Egg Harbor Township, we all went to Egg Harbor Township High School," said Officer Bertino. "We all have different stories of how we were personally affected by opioid abuse and addiction.”

“Growing up, you don’t realize what drugs and the epidemic it is has on your future," said Officer Jeremiah Simmons, E.H.T. P.D. and NEO instructor. "I never thought it would have an impact on my future and with my brother passing from heroin, it hit me pretty well.”

The goal of NEO isn’t only to scare students into not trying drugs, but more so to give students the opportunity to learn there are people who can help regardless if it’s you or someone you know that may need it.

“The biggest trap you can fall into is saying, 'it will never happen to me, it will never happen here.' And I think that’s when we show Egg Harbor Township-based instructors and people in recovery, it hits home,” said Officer Bertino.

While instructing, the officers want the students to know that even though they are police, they are just like everyone else.

“We just want to build a relationship with the kids," said Officer Simmons. "So, even when they see us on the streets, they’ll say, ‘Hey Officer Simmons, I remember you from the NEO Program. Thank you.'”

Officer Bertino said that until they no longer need the program, their plan is to keep growing it.

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