PARAMUS, N.J. – Drug addicts seeking recovery can walk into the Paramus police station “and be connected with services to meet their needed level of care” without the fear of being arrested, beginning this coming Wednesday as part of a pilot program targeted for the entire county, authorities said.
Every Wednesday, Paramus police will connect those who show up between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. seeking help for their addictions -- from anywhere in Bergen County -- to the kinds of services that can truly help them.
Those carrying a personal-use amount of drugs or paraphernalia on them won’t face charges if they come in seeking help, Police Chief Kenneth Ehrenberg emphasized.
However, he noted, anyone with an outstanding warrant will have to clear that matter up first before coming in.
The approach has worked in Ocean County and is being established in Mahwah and Lyndhurst as a way of stemming the raging heroin and opioid epidemic, the chief said.
Under state law, addicts who are arrested are given court summons and released. Given their situations, most don't show for court -- and are often re-arrested elsewhere, only to be released again.
Court fees mount, along with rap sheets, digging a deeper hole for the addict.
With the HART program, "instead of being incarcerated, they have the opportunity to be connected with rehabilitation services,” Ehrenberg said.
Paramus Police HQ: 1 Carlough Dr, Paramus, NJ 07652
Phone: (201) 262-3400
The Heroin Addiction Recovery Team (“HART”) program – funded with $118,000 in grants – was officially launched earlier this month by Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal with considerable help from Ehrenberg and Joe Masciandaro, the CEO and president of CarePlus, a primary partner in the venture.
Grewal also praised Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli and Lyndhurst Police Chief James O’Connor for their work on the initiative.
“The goals of the HART program include alleviating the burden of low level drug, decriminalizing those individuals seeking treatment, and connecting them with the most appropriate and effective continuum of care,” said Masciandaro of CarePlus.
There are four pillars to recovery, Masciandaro said:
- primary health care;
- mental health care;
- substance abuse treatment;
- access to social supports.
The HART program addresses all of those components through a team of police, care providers, family members and the addict, he said.
“It seems to be the obvious next step for our community, with the high level of collaboration between law enforcement and behavioral health professionals through the Crisis Intervention Team trainings,” Masciandaro said.
Paramus police have worked in tandem for years with CarePlus, particularly through the Psychiatric Emergency Screening Program (262-HELP).
“Once an individual completes inpatient treatment, the aftercare team is an integral part of maintained recovery,” said Care Plus Addiction Services Director Katherine Coleman.
“Setting up support and education in the community assists in the transition process back into their environments, and provides guidance in reestablishing a healthy and productive lifestyle,” she said. “It is not only beneficial for that person but also for the community at large.
“It takes a great deal of courage to seek treatment,” Coleman added.
“If individuals who are motivated are facing barriers to accessing care, it could prevent them from following through,” she said. “When we open doors, offer guidance and support their entry into treatment, it helps them to be more productive in achieving recovery.”
INFO: Katherine Coleman at (201) 986-5045 or Tara Walsh at 201-265-8200 x5450 .
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