CAPE MAY COURTHOUSE, N.J. — A middle schooler from Cape May County is now among the youngest and latest in the state gripped by the opioid crisis.
Authorities say Vincent Weiner, 13, was found dead in his Middle Township home on June 4. On Monday, the county prosecutor announced his cause of death was an overdose of heroin and fentanyl.
His mother, Jamie Lund, posted on Facebook that she was heartbroken and “whoever is supplying these babies with drugs, needs to be stopped.”
"I hear stories like this all the time, but 13?" said Ocean County mom Donna DeStefano, a special officer on Governor Christie's Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. "It's been getting worse and worse."
DeStefano said her daughter began using drugs and alcohol at around 13. But she was over 18 by the time she landed in jail and did five stints in rehab.
"I was terrified," said DeStefano.
Today, her daughter is five years sober. DeStefano is the founder and CEO a non-profit that is a parent resource for substance abuse, called Parents in Connection for Kids or P.I.C.K.
"If they're sleeping too much, their grades are failing, they're changing friends — all of that — you should really start looking into it," she said.
DeStefano has convinced state lawmakers to introduce a bill that would funnel certain license plate costs into state substance abuse programs.
"We're talking about having these conversations at a much younger age with adolescents. At 10, at 12," said Maria Ulmer, a therapist with 15-years of experience treating adolescents as young as 10 years old. She's now Chief Operating Officer at Summit Behavioral Health.
A 2015 survey by the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics found 21,000 adolescents, ages 12-17, used heroin in the past year.
Cape May County Prosecutor Robert Taylor said the county has seen an increase in the number of heroin bags with fentanyl.
"Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than a narcotic is," said Ulmer. "Most first responders have to wear masks when they come on the scene to revive someone who has had an overdose," said Ulmer. "In the likelihood that if they have encountered fentanyl, that they inhaling it could overdose and be exposed to death."
President Trump has declared opioid addiction a national emergency.
Vincent Weiner's mother urged anyone with information on how her son got the drugs to contact police.
People can report any information regarding illegal drug activity and or any criminal activity within the community and this information can be reported anonymously through the Cape May County Sheriffs Tip Line at cmcsheriff.net and click on anonymous tip, or through the Cape May County Crime Stoppers at 609-465-2800 or 877-465-2801, Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office at 609-465-1135.