HACKENSACK, NJ — Bergen County will receive a half-million dollars as part of Governor Murphy’s $7.8 million opioid initiative that will help county correctional facilities to provide medication-assisted opioid treatment to individuals with such addictions in county jails. The funds will also create the critical community partnerships to ensure post-release continuation of treatment.

According to a press release from the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Bergen County is one of 20 New Jersey counties to receive the funding. Nearby Essex County received the highest award on the list at $700,000 while Hudson County followed with $600,000 and Passaic County got $500,000.  

Prisoners released from jail are particularly vulnerable to opioid overdose and even death as the death toll is “significantly higher” compared with the overall population, Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson said.   

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“It is imperative that we treat people with opioid use disorder with the clinical standard of care before they are released and maintain treatment post-release,” said Johnson in a news release. “We are pleased that the county wardens are partnering with us in this critical effort to provide medication-assisted opioid treatment.  We look forward to working together with them to turn the tide of this epidemic.”

Governor Murphy’s opioid initiative is an extension of New Jersey’s prison medication-assisted opioid treatment program that involves a partnership between the Human Services and the Department of Corrections to establish addiction treatment into state prisons. Through the collaboration, peer services are provided, which expand pre- and post-release recovery support services to people within the Department of Corrections with an opioid use or substance use disorder. 

The first phase of the initiative started out a pilot program in Atlantic County backed by the Department of Human Services through which the Atlantic County Jail — in partnership with the John Brooks Recovery Center — began providing medication-assisted treatment to individuals in the facility who have opioid use disorder, and connecting them to treatment post-release. According to Acting Commissioner Marcus O. Hicks, Esq., medication-assisted treatment is paramount in putting addicts on a recovery trajectory.  

“Through this powerful collaboration, we are connecting them to lifesaving treatment at a catalytic moment and getting individuals back on track to leading healthy and fulfilling lives,” said Acting Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “From a public health perspective, it is these types of bold and evidence-based initiatives that will ultimately lead to reducing the stigma around the epidemic and getting us to the other side.”