TRENTON – Expanding New Jersey’s successful law enforcement-based addiction diversion programs, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced that the Office of the New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies (“NJ CARES”) plans to award $749,999 in federal funding to create Opioid Response Teams (“ORTs”) in five New Jersey municipalities. The teams will provide around-the-clock crisis intervention for individuals suffering from opioid addiction.
Police departments in Newark, Camden, Paterson, Trenton, and Toms River are expected to participate in the program. These municipalities were invited to participate based on a data-driven analysis of the impact of the opioid epidemic across all New Jersey municipalities.
“We know that the minutes and hours after an overdose, an arrest, or another drug-related crisis offer drug users an important opportunity to get the help they need to turn their lives around,” said Attorney General Grewal. “These Opioid Response Teams will be trained to spring into action at a moment’s notice, day or night, to ensure that drug users experiencing a crisis know that the door to treatment and recovery support services is always open.”
Recent data show Camden and Newark as having more naloxone administrations by first responders than any other municipalities in the State, as well as more drug-related arrests than any other municipalities in the State, and they are located in the two counties (Camden and Essex) with the highest rate of drug overdose deaths. Paterson and Trenton likewise are among the cities with the most naloxone administrations and drug-related arrests. And Toms River is a hub for opioid-related activity in Ocean County, which also has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic.
Response teams in these municipalities, which will include at least one representative from the local police department and from Emergency Medical Services (“EMS”), as well as a Substance Abuse Recovery Advocate (“SARA”), will be called to assist individuals at the scene of an overdose, in a hospital following an overdose, at a police station following an opioid-related arrest, or during calls for service in which someone is under the influence of opioids. Team members trained in de-escalation techniques and how to interact with individuals with opioid addiction issues will provide individuals with on-scene support, information, and/or referrals to treatment and recovery programs.
“The Opioid Response Team program builds on our successes utilizing law enforcement resources to promote treatment and recovery for individuals suffering from addiction,” said Sharon M. Joyce, Director of NJ CARES. “The funding we are making available today will enable police departments in eligible towns throughout the state to establish a trained team of responders available for deployment 24/7 to divert at-risk individuals into treatment.”
Each participating municipality is expected to receive $149,999.80. The funding is for a 19-month period that runs from October 1, 2019 to June 30, 2021.
Funding for the ORT subgrants comes from a grant the Department of Law & Public Safety received from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance. The subgrants to the municipalities will cover the costs associated with the implementation of ORTs, which could include hiring an Opioid Response Team Coordinator, paying for on-call SARAs, transportation expenses, and the production of informational palm cards and business cards in various languages depending on community need.
Subgrant recipients were identified through a data-driven selection process undertaken by a Strategic Planning Committee (“the Committee”) made up of representatives from the NJ Office of the Attorney General, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and its High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, the NJ Administrative Office of the Courts, the NJ Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs’ Prescription Monitoring Program, the NJ State Police Drug Monitoring Initiative, the NJ State Police Field Operations, the NJ State Parole Board, the NJ Courts and its Office of Probation Services, the NJ Division of Children and Families, the NJ Department of Corrections, the NJ Office of the Chief State Medical Examiner, the NJ State Association of Chiefs of Police, the County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey, the New Jersey Prevention Network, and Rutgers School of Social Work.
The Committee identified the five municipalities based on the average number of opioid overdose deaths in each municipality; the number of naloxone administrations; the number of drug-related arrests; existing ORT-like programs; existing treatment resources; the municipality’s location in the state; and the population of the municipality.
Each of the identified subgrant recipients must return its application and award package to NJ CARES by September 19, 2019.
The ORT program advances New Jersey’s law enforcement-based addiction diversion strategy, an approach that figures prominently in Governor Murphy and Attorney General Grewal’s all-hands-on-deck strategy for combatting the opioid epidemic.
The municipality-focused ORT program complements the county-based approach of New Jersey’s successful Operation Helping Hand programs, which have been credited with linking hundreds of individuals with services to address their drug use.