Initiative is Aimed at Reducing Opioid Addiction by Linking Drug Users with Recovery Services at Time of Arrest
JERSEY CITY — Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez announced today the successful launch in Hudson County of „Operation Helping Hand‟ – an initiative that aims to be part of the statewide solution to the opioid epidemic by linking narcotics users with recovery services at the time of arrest.
During the early morning hours on Friday, January 24, 2020, approximately two dozen officers from the Hudson County Prosecutor‟s Office and the Jersey City Police Department targeted multiple areas of Jersey City arresting eight individuals who they observed purchasing narcotics (heroin) through hand-to-hand transactions. Those individuals were then transported to the Prosecutor‟s Office for processing, where they were met with addiction recovery specialists and case managers from the RWJBarnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery. Additional support was provided by Jersey City Medical Center Emergency Medical Services.
Nearly all of the eight individuals arrested agreed to recovery assistance. Of the eight, six received services from the Institute for Prevention and Recovery, one agreed to enter an immediate detox treatment program at the Hudson County Correctional Center and one was transported directly to the Jersey City Police Department due to an outstanding warrant. This is the first of several operations planned for municipalities in Hudson County.
Working together with our social services partners and recovery professionals, law enforcement can serve as a bridge between addiction and recovery,” said Prosecutor Suarez. “If we can save even one life, we have made an impact, but we believe this program will save many lives and help countless others rebuild for a positive future.”
While the individuals must still face the criminal charges, by volunteering for recovery support they have the opportunity to enter Drug Court and if they successfully complete treatment have the potential to see their current and past drug charges expunged.
According to Lynn Seaward, Assistant Director of the Institute for Prevention and Recovery, the individual who entered detox was emotional and grateful for the support, saying “his prayers had been answered” and calling the day “the best day of his life.”
Seaward noted significant results through their intervention work with law enforcement, including that 80 percent of those individuals utilizing their services have found employment within the first ninety days.
“We have seen so much success this year with people turning their lives around, securing housing and new jobs,” Seaward said. “For them, having the support and having someone to walk with them hand-in-hand through the process has made all the difference.”
“Jersey City Medical Center is committed to transforming our community‟s health beyond the walls of our hospital,” said Michael Prilutsky, President and CEO, Jersey City Medical Center. “This includes addressing social factors that affect health. We will continue to remain actively engaged with our community partners in making a difference on critical issues.”
“We want to thank all of our partners who collaborated with us on this initial round of „Operation Helping Hand‟ and look forward to expanding it throughout Hudson County in the coming weeks and months,” added Prosecutor Suarez.
„Operation Helping Hand‟ is a statewide initiative funded through the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General. In September, the Hudson County Prosecutor‟s Office received a $100,000 grant to launch the program in Hudson County. In 2016, while serving as the Bergen County Prosecutor, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal developed Operation Helping Hand as a new and innovative way to combat opioid addiction. Under his leadership, the first multi-county „Operation Helping Hand‟ initiative was launched in five counties in June 2018. Through state and federal funding, the Operation Helping Hand program was expanded to 17 counties in September 2018, and to all 21 counties in the state in September 2019.
“We applaud the launch of Hudson County‟s first Operation Helping Hand initiative and the lives it has touched,” said Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal. “We look forward to the program‟s continued success. Each individual provided a pathway to recovery brings us one step closer to defeating the opioid epidemic.”