TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Office of the New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies (“NJ CARES”) today announced $1 million in grant funding for counties to establish, expand, or adapt programs like Bergen County’s model “Operation Helping Hand” in which law enforcement officers play an active role in connecting individuals suffering from opioid addiction with vital treatment, recovery and/or support services. The grant affords counties flexibility in designing their own programs, to fit the needs and concerns in each region.
The $1 million is a subgrant from the Department of Health (“DOH”) which recently received $3,724,000 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to fund 19 different projects spanning multiple programs and divisions across DOH, as well as with external stakeholders within the public health and healthcare continuum.
“Putting an end to the opioid crisis ravaging New Jersey is a top priority we share with DOH, and the $1 million grant we received from them goes a long way toward reaching that goal,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Counties are eligible to receive vital funding to establish or expand collaborative addiction-fighting programs like Operation Helping Hand which has a track record of successfully linking drug-addicted individuals arrested on drug charges with the treatment and recovery services they need.”
The Operation Helping Hand strategy pioneered in Bergen County involves law enforcement officers arresting users purchasing heroin – or, in some cases, other narcotics – at open-air drug markets. When the users are brought to the police station or prosecutor’s office for processing on narcotics possession charges, recovery specialists and other healthcare partners are waiting to connect them with treatment and recovery services. The charges are not dropped if the user accepts help, but every effort is made to place him or her on the path to recovery.
Under the grant program, the Operation Helping Hand model may be adapted to meet each participating county’s circumstances, but every participating county’s program will involve coordination and collaboration between law enforcement officers, recovery specialists, and mental health professionals to connect individuals suffering from the disease of addiction treatment and/or recovery support services.
“This grant funding from DOH encourages the kind of collaborative addiction-fighting initiatives NJ CARES was created to promote and oversee,” said Sharon M. Joyce, Director of NJ CARES. “We’re urging every county in New Jersey to take this opportunity to initiate or expand innovative programs like Operation Helping Hand that successfully unite law enforcement, government, and the addiction-service community in the battle to save lives and end the heroin and opioid crisis.”
“Law enforcement, and the Attorney General’s office in particular, are critical partners in battling a public health epidemic that has devastated communities and families throughout New Jersey,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal. “Through the expansion of this initiative, we can further local efforts to get more residents on a path to recovery.”
In June, a week-long Operation Helping Hand collaboration involving law enforcement, county government, and addiction service agencies in five counties demonstrated the program’s success in connecting individuals suffering from the disease of addiction with treatment and recovery support services.
A total of 177 users were arrested in Operation Helping Hand from June 11 through 15 by law enforcement officers from Bergen, Morris, Passaic, Sussex and Union counties. Of those 177 people, a total of 148 – or five out of every six users arrested – accepted the offer of treatment or recovery support services. Only 29 rejected the offer of help. There were three additional “walk-ins” who were not arrested, but who were offered and accepted help after they learned of the program. Of the 151 who accepted help, including the walk-ins, a total of 102 accepted treatment – meaning in-patient detox, or in-patient treatment, or intensive outpatient treatment, or medically assisted treatment, or a combination thereof – and the other 49 accepted other recovery support services.
Grant funding for Operation Helping Hand programs will be allocated to participating counties through their County Prosecutor’s Offices.
The base funding allocation for each County Prosecutor’s office is $47,619. If not all County Prosecutors’ offices participate, the remainder of the $1,000,000 in funding will be divided among participating County Prosecutors’ offices using a formula determined by NJ CARES. The funding is for a 12-month period from September 1, 2018 through August 31, 2019.
Counties are permitted to modify the Operation Helping Hand model, as long as the adapted programs use law enforcement encounters as the point of entry for treatment and/or recovery support services.
For example, instead of arresting individuals who purchase drugs at a single open air drug market, counties may identify multiple locations for surveillance during their weeklong surge operations.
Alternatively, counties may identify individuals at risk for drug overdoses using law enforcement data and other resources, and then send teams of law enforcement officers, recovery specialists, and other healthcare partners to meet with these individuals about recovery and treatment options – without making any arrest.
Counties also may adapt the Operation Helping Hand model in a manner that expands on existing programs and/or resources, including but not limited to mobile addiction outreach vans.
Additional information is available at www.nj.gov/oag/grants.htm under the heading Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2018 Operation Helping Hand Grant Program. OAG’s Consolidated Grants Management Office and NJ CARES are available to provide assistance to counties interested in applying for these funds.
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