TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Office of the New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies (“NJ CARES”) today announced that $1 million in federal grant funds are available to counties for the continuation, expansion, and enhancement of Operation Helping Hand programs that help combat the opioid epidemic.
The Operation Helping Hand model, in which law enforcement officers take a lead role in assisting individuals with substance use disorders, has been credited with linking hundreds of individuals statewide with services to address their drug addictions.
“Over the last year, we have expanded Operation Helping Hand or similar models into all 21 counties in the state. Our aim now is to help these programs take root and thrive,” said Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal. “We encourage every county to seize this funding opportunity to double down on the fight against addiction. When law enforcement opens the door to recovery, we are one step closer to ending the opioid crisis in our state.”
Federally funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the grant money announced today will allow counties to increase the frequency of their operations and/or incorporate and improve on their existing models or permit the implementation of new and distinct Operation Helping Hand-type initiatives. This grant period will run between September 1, 2019 and August 31, 2020.
The federal grant period runs simultaneously with a state-funded grant program through which 21 counties were approved to use $2.1 million to establish or expand Operation Helping Hand programs. That funding was made available from the $100 million that the Murphy Administration committed to combatting the opioid epidemic in FY2019.
“These additional federal funds are a great way to build upon the current goals and efforts outlined for those state grant funds,” said Sharon M. Joyce, Director of NJ CARES. “We look forward to working with all counties to best utilize this new funding opportunity to promote the kind of community partnerships that put law enforcement at the forefront of addiction recovery efforts. By shifting the focus from arresting drug offenders to engaging law enforcement in proactively linking individuals with the treatment and recovery services they need, we create more opportunities to break the cycle of addiction.”
Attorney General Grewal developed Operation Helping Hand as an innovative way to combat opioid addiction in Bergen County while serving as the County Prosecutor in 2016. In that original model, law enforcement officers would arrest users purchasing heroin – or, in some cases, other narcotics – at open-air drug markets. When the users were brought to the police station or prosecutor’s office for processing on narcotics possession charges, recovery specialists and other healthcare partners were waiting to connect them with treatment and recovery services. The charges were not dropped if the user accepted help, but every effort was made to place him or her on the path to recovery.
Operation Helping Hand has steadily been expanding to more counties since 2018 as part of Governor Murphy and Attorney General Grewal’s all-hands-on-deck strategy for combatting the opioid epidemic.
In October 2018, NJ CARES disbursed $1 million in federal funds to 17 County Prosecutors’ Offices to establish or expand Operation Helping Hand programs.
Then, in June 2019, County Prosecutors’ Offices in all 21 counties committed to using $2.1 million in state funding to establish or expand Operation Helping Hand programs.
All Operation Helping Hand programs must involve community health partners, as well as proactive outreach by law enforcement officers, who serve as the point of entry for treatment and/or recovery support services. However, the counties are given flexibility to adapt their programs to meet their counties’ specific needs.
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