Somerville event to heighten addiction awareness, share resources
MyCentralJersey.com August 19, 2022
SOMERVILLE – Jackson Rannells knew the opioid epidemic in every American
community, no matter whether it was rich or pool or in New Jersey or Wyoming, could
not be swept under the rug and ignored.
The former Somerville High School student who lived in Branchburg had his own
struggles with addiction. He made poor choices that propelled him on the path to
addiction in his teen years and worsened in his 20s after being prescribed an opioid
medication for an injury. He had too many friends and classmates who lost their battles.
In 2018, with the help of his father, Jack created a nonprofit organization, Not An Easy
Fix, to honor the victims, heal the pain in communities and increase awareness of the
epidemic that lies in waiting in every town. He also wanted to erase the stigma that too
many attach to addiction, which would make it less difficult to seek and accept the
resources necessary for recovery.
Jack planned to have the first community event on Division Street in Somerville in the
summer of 2019, but his continuing struggle with addiction intervened.
He sought treatment and when the opportunity returned to hold the event, the country
was struck with another epidemic, COVID-19, that just increased the loneliness and
boredom that addiction feeds on.
Then, on Feb. 18, 2021, while the country was still struggling with COVID-19, Jackson
had a relapse and fentanyl poisoning took his life at the age of 30.
Now his parents, Ellen and Jack Rannells, are continuing their son's mission to make a
difference in the lives of others and communities.
Not An Easy Fix, billed as "A Night of Community, Honoring and Healing"; will be held 6
to 8:30 p.m. Sunday on the lawn of the Historic Courthouse on East Main Street.
"We want to bring people together"Jack Rannells said, "not only to make them aware
of the problem, but also aware of the resources available to them."
Ellen Rannells said her son believed in the adage that "it takes a village" and that was
especially essential in the response to the opioid epidemic.
"We want to bring the community together", she emphasized, "because it's about the
"The event will begin with a dozen area organizations presenting their resources at
tables on the courthouse lawn. There will also be demonstrations how to administer
Narcan, the medication that can revive an overdose victim.
At 7 p.m., the program will begin will an opening prayer by Father Ron Pollock of St.
John's Episcopal Church in Somerville and welcoming remarks by Somerset County
Commission Director Shanel Robinson. Jack Rannells will give opening remarks.
Speakers will include former state Sen. Kip Bateman; Maiysha Ware of Somerset
Treatment Services; Meg Isbitski, Somerset County's mental administrator; and
Detective Stacey Kelly of the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office, who will speak on
Operation Helping Hand where law enforcement officers, accompanied by recovery
support specialists, engage residents in need by providing on-the-spot referrals to
treatment and other resources.
There will also be a performance of "How Far We've Come"a special song written for
the event. Rappers Craft Monroe and Loon will perform.
The evening will end with four speakers, two talking about their recovery and two talking
about the loss of their loved ones to addiction.
Jack and Ellen Rannells thanked Somerset County and the Borough of Somerville for
making the event possible. "They've been very helpful" Jack said.
Ellen said she hopes the rally will deliver the message that her son wanted to give about
the insight he gained through his recovery efforts and spiritual journey. He wanted
others to know about the transformational power of Jesus Christ and to help others
resist the temptation of experimenting with dangerous substances and, she said,
"surrounding yourself with the right people."
But Jack and Ellen say they hope the event will help people realize the prevalence of
the problem and while there is no easy fix, recovery is possible.
"People have to deal with the issue" she said.
Mike Deak is a reporter for mycentraljersey.com. To get unlimited access to his articles
on Somerset and Hunterdon counties, please subscribe or activate your digital account