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Woodbridge partnership to aid overdose victims

Staff Writer

WOODBRIDGE — A partnership among the township, New Brunswick-based SOBA College Recovery and Raritan Bay Medical Center has formed with the hopes that those administered the overdose antidote Narcan will receive a critical initial step in the right direction to recovery.

The Township Council approved a memorandum of agreement resolution among the parties at a council meeting on July 26. Woodbridge officials said the program would most likely begin at the end of the month.

“We are excited for this opportunity,” said Business Administrator Bob Landolfi, who said the partnership acts as an opioid recovery program. “I think we all recognize the opioid abuse problem. It’s a difficult issue that affects people’s lives causing far too many deaths. There’s a horrific toll to be paid here not only for those who overdose, but their families and friends.”

Landolfi said with the partnership, they have recognized the problem.

“We hope to really have an impact here,” he said.

The Woodbridge Police Department started administrating Narcan in January 2015, responding to 39 incidents where police officers deployed Narcan, according to statistics provided by John Hagerty, communications director for the township.

This year so far, the department has responded to 27 incidents for Narcan deployment.

Landolfi said the opioid abuse problem is a difficult issue that not only affects users’ lives and causes far too many deaths, but also affects the lives of their families and friends.

Woodbridge embarked on a goal several months ago with strong support from the Township Council, led by Fifth Ward Councilwoman Debbie Meehan and Police Director Robert Hubner, to implement a peer recovery program to deal with those individuals who overdosed.

Landolfi said the township’s program in some ways is modeled after the state’s recovery program that has been implemented in five counties.

“Those counties do not include Middlesex,” he said.

Landolfi said once emergency services are dispatched to a call of a suspected opioid overdose and the arriving police officer determines the need for Narcan, the individual would be transferred to the hospital.

As part of the tripartite agreement, township dispatch will contact SOBA College Recovery, a comprehensive treatment program that offers effective treatment for drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders.

SOBA College Recovery will in turn dispatch a peer recovery specialist, who is a recovered substance abuser.

With permission by the patient and hospital, the specialist will initiate the recovery process, which Landolfi said is so critical and important in the initial recovery process.

“The traditional treatment methodology of a social worker clinician or someone who hasn’t been in that position [as the initial contact] — the success rate is close to zero,” he said.

Whereas, when the initial contact with a peer coach recovery specialist has been utilized, those initial success rates are in the 70-80th percentile.

“We’re not talking about the long-term success rate, we are talking about the initial … to get a 70-80 percent initial success rate is monumental,” said Landolfi.

The recovery specialist will work on encouraging the patient to seek ongoing treatment and provide referrals, depending on the level of addiction, to different types of inpatient or outpatient treatment.

“There will be a follow-up by College Recovery,” said Landolfi.

SOBA College Recovery is funded through grants.

“They hire and dispatch [personnel who] provide services at no cost to the township,” said Landolfi.

Officials said the partnership begins with Raritan Bay Medical Center, which has campuses in Perth Amboy and Old Bridge, with the opportunity to expand to other hospitals.

Councilwoman Meehan said the opioid problem has been a growing problem in Woodbridge.

“The township has been proactive, working hard with [Police Director] Hubner and the Heroin Taskforce,” she said, adding they will be trying to get the information into the schools.

Mayor John McCormac said while the state recovery program would most likely reach Middlesex County, he said township officials did not want to wait.

“I really believe this [program] will have an impact,” he said, adding that in many Narcan deployment incidences, officers have come into contact with individuals who are repeat users.

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