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Battling the opioid crisis in Middlesex County

The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office is currently combating the opioid crisis by incorporating a 24-hour hotline (732-596-4199) and simultaneously administering two ongoing state funded Operation Helping Hand (OHH) grants.

Middlesex County’s version of OHH, called Blue Cares, offers a 24-hour, 7 days a week Blue Cares hotline, staffed by approximately 30 trained peer recovery coaches, according to information provided by Acting Middlesex County Prosecutor Christopher L.C. Kuberiet.

The hotline is advertised via business cards, brochures and posters that have been displayed throughout the county and shared with every law enforcement officer serving in Middlesex County. In turn, those same law enforcement officers distribute this information within their communities.  

In addition, Blue Cares has created a cellular telephone application, which can be accessed by searching “Blue Cares” on a cell thone’s App Store for Apple devices and the Google Play Store for Android devices. This app will allow users to access information and resources regarding treatment. The app will also allow the user to participate in a live chat with a peer recovery coach 24/7.

One component of the OHH grants in Middlesex County is based on an outreach approach that has officers and peer recovery coaches conducting door-to-door visits to those who have been revived by naloxone (Narcan). The funding allows for a law enforcement officer to generate a list of those with substance use disorders that have been revived by naloxone within their community, to team up with a peer recovery coach to conduct home visits in an attempt to link individuals with treatment, according to the statement.

Currently, these proactive operations are being conducted in three of the towns with the highest naloxone deployments in Middlesex County: Woodbridge, Perth Amboy and New Brunswick. The peer recovery coach will attempt to remain in contact with these individuals and continue to provide treatment opportunities, according to the statement.

The second OHH grant is a Municipal Drug Court program. The court administrators from Woodbridge, North Brunswick and now New Brunswick are compiling a list of drug related charges and scheduling them for one drug court session per month in each of those towns, according to the statement. On those specific court dates, defendants are initially greeted by an officer, then screened by a recovery coach and then ultimately offered treatment.  The defendant then has the opportunity to accept treatment, while their case is deferred for a period of time, until the treatment is undertaken, according to the statement.

Recently, Kuberiet forwarded a letter to the municipal court prosecutors in New Brunswick and North Brunswick to outline the terms and conditions of the operation of a Municipal Drug Court Program in those jurisdictions. Those terms and conditions simply replicated what was taking place in Woodbridge, according to the statement. Kuberiet gave full discretion to municipal court prosecutors to dispose of matters pending against those offenders suffering from the disease of addiction at they see fit, according to the statement. Those disposition options can range from an outright dismissal to a significant downgrade and/or amendment of the original charges.

This unorthodox step was taken due to the limited risk that these individuals pose to public safety, according to the statement.Moreover, this step was taken in recognition of the 179 lives lost in Middlesex County in 2019 due to suspected drug toxicity and the 1,015 naloxone administrations in Middlesex County which conceivably would have resulted in the death of someone’s loved one, according to the statement.This was also taken in order to align Middlesex County with the attorney general’s three step approach to this crisis: prevention, intervention and enforcement, according to the statement.

It is hoped that at the conclusion of a successful treatment period, a favorable disposition of the charges is achieved so that treatment opportunities are plentiful for the individual defendant and others similarly situated, according to the statement.

Additionally, Middlesex County recently held an addiction training seminar, cohosted by the New Jersey Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association, Magloclen and the County Narcotic Commanders Association of New Jersey. This half-day training offered a look at addiction for law enforcement. This training offered an inside look presented by someone who has suffered from a substance use disorder and is now in long-term recovery. Moreover, the training assisted law enforcement officers to understand that addiction is a disease and the important role they play in linking those suffering to treatment which in turn saves lives, according to the statement.

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