WARETOWN, NJ – At the February township committee meeting, Ocean Township Police Chief Michel Rogalski reported on two new programs designed to help local residents. Both “Blue Hope” and “Because We Care” deal with providing services to fight substance abuse disorders.

Last month, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s office announced a rename of an existing program designed to combat an ongoing battle against heroin and opioid addiction. Both Barnegat and Ocean Township have partnered with the county’s prosecutor’s office and Ocean County Mental Health Services to provide Blue Hope services.

“Blue Hope is not an automatic linkage to detox or in-patient treatment,” shared Ocean Township Police Chief Michel Rogalski. “However, it serves as an entry point for residents of Ocean Township who are in need of substance abuse disorder services and/or treatment.”

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Sixteen Ocean County communities signed on to participate in the Blue Hope program.  Participation comes at no cost to the municipalities.

“Every Tuesday, from 9am until 4pm, officers are available to walk in the door for help,” Rogalski said.  “No questions are asked.”

Meanwhile, there’s also not the expectation that those seeking assistance need to wait for a particular day. Recently, the police department came to the aid of someone who appeared at police headquarters at 8am on a Saturday morning.

“He had an outstanding warrant,” said Rogalski. “The officers were able to take care of the warrant and transport the individual to Toms River.”

“I’m proud to say that person is in treatment now,” continued the police chief. “Treatment is now anywhere from six to eight months and is working.”

Ocean Township is one of five towns participating in another partnership with Ocean County Mental Health Services.  The “Because We Care” initiative identifies shortcomings in the societal responses to substance abuse disorders.

As part of the initiative, overdose victims and their families are interviewed. The goal is to identify the “blind spots” to develop ways to combat the opioid crisis more effectively and efficiently.

Detective Leanne Petracca has been assigned as the Ocean Township Police Department’s liaison to the “Because We Care” initiative.  She becomes involved in cases where there is a fatal overdose or when Narcan is administered to revive someone.

“Weeks after the event, Detective Petracca will visit the family with a social worker,” Rogalski shared. “They will knock on the door and ask if the family wants to talk.”

The process utilizes a standardized form with questions concerning the criminal justice system and the healthcare system. It also includes learning about the overdose victim’s family and community relationships.

“The idea is to determine if there is a pattern of our shortcomings throughout Ocean County,” continued Rogalski. “We want to get the data to see where we can improve as a community and as a police department to address the things we need to do.”