CAMDEN, NJ— The City of Camden announced Friday that it will be one of 21 Camden County municipalities to participate in the county’s new pilot program to combat the opioid crisis, Project SAVE.

“The City of Camden recognizes the importance of combating the ongoing health crisis related to prescription pill and heroin abuse that is taking place in so many communities throughout Camden County and beyond,” Vince Basara, city spokesperson, said Friday in a statement.

“The City of Camden remains interested in entering the Project SAVE Pilot as it explores the programs benefits. The City has requested they be added to the list of potential participants as the pilot program will be funded through 2019 by Camden County," he said.

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On Wednesday, county officials announced the county was committing $100,000 to launch Project SAVE throughout the county, a program that focuses on early drug addiction intervention by placing licensed social service professionals in the municipal courts, where they act as navigators for those suffering from opioid addiction who want to get help.

The county said the program will begin in January in 2019, and it will make sure it is funded for the whole year.

In 2017, 227 people died from an opioid overdose, and over 50 percent of the Camden County Jail population enters with some form of addiction, officials said.

“It is most often the case when you have an addiction disorder, that you’re first experience with a court system is in municipal court,” Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli said Wednesday at Audubon Municipal Hall.

The goal of the program is to get people who may have just started using drugs into treatment if they choose to do so, Cappelli said, in addition to reducing crime.

Since the county announced Wednesday that 18 towns would be participating in Project SAVE, four more have joined — Haddon Heights, Brooklawn and Camden City.

On Friday, Cappelli said that the addition of Camden to Project SAVE will help reach more people who live in the suburbs.

“It will hopefully help some of the some of the folks you see living on the streets in Camden get into treatment, and hopefully on a path to recovery,” Cappelli said. “Most of the folks you see in Camden do not actually live in the city, they live in the suburbs.

“A lot of the young people you see are just becoming victims of the disease and are going to Camden with the specific purpose of buying drugs, that’s why they’re there and often their first time being arrested will be in the City of Camden.”

According to Basara, in order to officially participate in the program, the city will be required to enter into a Program Shared Services Agreement with the County, which is subject to city council and state approval.  

“The City looks forward to working with all parties on this very worthy program,” Basara said.