Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and the Office of the New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies, or NJ CARES, said on Oct. 8 that that state is getting $1 million in federal grant funds to help counties continue, expand and enhance Operation Helping Hand programs that help combat the opioid epidemic.
According to the Grewal’s office, the 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 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.”
Funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the grant money 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 Sept.1, 2019 and August 31, 2020.
The grant period runs simultaneously with a state-funded grant program through which 21 counties will 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.
Grewal developed Operation Helping Hand as a 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.