Operation Helping Hand, a collaboration among five New Jersey counties to connect individuals suffering from addiction to recovery services, has placed 151 persons in treatment or other recovery-related services in its first weeks, officials said Wednesday.
The program is the collaboration between law enforcement and health officials from Bergen, Morris, Passaic, Sussex and Union Counties. It is being overseen by state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who helped launched a similar program when he served as a prosecutor for Bergen County.
The program involves law enforcement officers arresting drug users purchasing heroin, opioids, or other illegal narcotics. When the users are brought to the police station or prosecutor’s office for processing on narcotics possession charges, recovery specialists are waiting to connect them with treatment and recovery services.
The charges aren’t dropped if the user accepts help, but officials in the respective counties offer the user recovery services, such as detox and in-patient rehab.
As a result of the effort, 177 illegal drug users were arrested in the five counties between June 11 and June 15. Of those arrested, 148 accepted help through the form of addiction treatment, while another three people voluntarily came to the program to seek help.
Of the 151 who accepted help, 102 accepted treatment, while the other 49 accepted other recovery support services. Union County arrested 100 users, with 81 accepting help. The four other counties arrested 77 users, with 67 of those accepting help.
Attorney General Grewal announced the numbers at New Bridge Medical Center in Paramus, where he was joined by Bergen County Executive James Tedesco III, New Bridge CEO Deborah Visconi, Bergen County prosecutor Dennis Calo, Morris County prosecutor Fredric Knapp, Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes, Sussex County Prosecutor Francis Koch and acting Union County Prosecutor Michael Monahan.
“The results of this five-county operation reaffirm my strong belief that Operation Helping Hand is a program we need to implement throughout New Jersey and offer as a model to other states across the country,” Grewal said. “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.”