Multi-County Initiative Steered Most of the Addicts Arrested Into Treatment: AG

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What to Know

  • A week-long, multi-county initiative to combat opioid addiction in NJ steered recently arrested addicts into treatment, officials announced

  • The initiative known as “Operation Helping Hands” took place in Bergen, Passaic, Morris, Sussex and Union counties

  • The program netted 177 arrests from June 11 through 15. Of those arrested, 148 accepted the offer of treatment or recovery services

A week-long, multi-county and multi-agency initiative to combat opioid addiction in New Jersey steered recently arrested addicts into treatment, eventually securing treatment for more than 80 percent of the drug users apprehended, the state’s attorney general announced Wednesday.

The initiative known as “Operation Helping Hands,” which was developed by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, involved law enforcement officers in Bergen, Passaic, Morris, Sussex and Union counties arresting users buying heroin, and, at times, other narcotics, at open-air drug markets.

When the users were brought to the police state or prosecutor’s office for processing on drug possession charges, recovery specialists were waiting to connect them with treatment services. Although their charges are not dropped, those arrested are offered these services in hopes of bringing them on the path to recovery, the attorney general said.

The program netted a total of 177 arrests from June 11 through 15. Of those arrested, 148 — or five out of every six — accepted the offer of treatment or recovery support services, according to state officials, adding that only 29 rejected the offer of help.

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Additionally, there were three “walk-ins” who were not arrested, but who were offered and accepted help after learning about the program.

Of the 151 who accepted help, a total of 102 accepted in-patient treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, medically assisted treatment or a combination of treatment. The remaining 49 accepted other recovery support services.

Union County arrested 100 users, with 81 accepting help, while the four counties arrested 77 users, with 67 accepting help.

In addition, the operation yielded information and leads concerning the distribution of drugs and narcotics in the targeted areas, which will be used by law enforcement in continuing efforts to dismantle individuals and organizations engaged in drug trafficking, the attorney general said.

Grewal developed Operation Helping Hand as a new way to combat the heroin and opioid crisis in Bergen County while serving as county prosecutor there.

“These results are extraordinary and are a testament to the dedicated work of all who participated in this unprecedented operation in New Jersey,” said Grewal in a statement. “While we know some of these heroin users who accepted detox beds or support services will lapse into drug use again, there can be little doubt with these numbers that lives were saved – that heroin users who would have become statistics of the opioid epidemic will instead recover and reclaim their lives.”

Grewal also said that the results reaffirm his belief that the program is one that should be implemented throughout New Jersey and other states.

“We can’t arrest our way out of the opioid epidemic, but we have learned that we can, in fact, save lives by making arrests, if we engage in this type of collaboration among law enforcement, government, and the addiction-service community,” he said.

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Communities that participated in the initiative were appreciative of the Helping Hand model that “has encouraged other counties to emulate,” according to Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Dennis Calo.

“The opioid epidemic in our entire state continues to significantly impact our residents,” Calo said in a statement, adding, “This partnership is truly extraordinary, and we believe that it is saving lives.”

Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes, Sussex County Prosecutor Francis Koch and Union County Prosecutor Michael Monahan shared similar sentiments.

Morris County Prosecutor Fredric Knapp said that the growing epidemic must be addressed through innovative methods.

“In light of the staggering toll heroin and opioids have had on our state and nation, we as law enforcement leaders must utilize innovative methods to combat this epidemic. Operation Helping Hand is one such example we can use,” Knapp said.

In February, Grewal announced the creation of the Office of the New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies (“NJ CARES”) — a new office dedicated to fighting the opioid epidemic.

The office will be responsible for overseeing addiction-fighting efforts across the Department of Law & Public Safety, while creating partnerships with other agencies and groups with a mission of finding solutions to the opioid crisis and drug addiction.

On Wednesday, Grewal also released preliminary data on overdose deaths in the first six months of 2017. The data shows that there were 623 heroin deaths in the state in the first half of 2017 — up from 594 heroin deaths in the first half of 2016 and up from 415 heroin deaths in the first half of 2015

Additionally, there was 668 fentanyl deaths in New Jersey in the first six months of 2017, which was nearly double the 337 deaths recorded for the same period in 2016, and well over four times the 150 fentanyl deaths recorded in the first half of 2015, according to officials.

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Source : Nbcnewyork