NEWTON, NJ - Newton Police Department in cooperation with the Center for Prevention and Counseling have officially launched the C.L.E.A.R. program for Sussex County.  The program seeks to reach people dealing with heroin addiction before they are in trouble with police.

C.L.E.A.R.  stands for Community, Law Enforcement, Addiction and Recovery.  It was part of the discussion at the recent Coffee with a Cop on Thursday, July 20. 

Newton Police Chief Michael Richards explained part of the reason for the Coffee with a Cop program is to continue to develop trust between local residents and local police.  Trust will be an important part of the success of the C.L.E.A.R. program.  People need to trust that they can go to police for help, before the police have to come to them in response to a problem, Richards explained. 

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C.L.E.A.R.  is now operational and ready to receive calls Newton. Trained Recovery Coaches are available and prepared to help the addict and their families develop a plan and navigate the process of getting treatment.  Their goal is to get them connected," said Rachel Wallace program coordinator from the Center for Prevention and Counseling. 

"The Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA, calls heroin addiction an epidemic," said Richards.  "Law enforcements works hard on the enforcement part, C.L.E.A.R.  is looking to intervene before they are arrested."

The Newton Police uphold the mission of the program "to form a collaborative network of professionals in the community who will facilitate medical intervention, improved access to treatment and recovery support for those struggling with drug addiction who seek assistance, without fear of arrest or prosecution in order to make a positive difference in the quality of life for individuals, families and our entire community."

The program has been piloted in five counties in New Jersey.  The Sussex County program has been launched in Newton with the support of all of the police chiefs in the county and the county Freeholders, with the expectation of expanding into other Sussex towns. 

Funding  for training and other resources has been provided by  Newton Medical Center, Sussex County Chiefs' Association and the Sussex County Freeholders. Miniskin Press in Newton donated 1000 printed cards for the initiative. 

"The hospital has been very supportive," said Recovery Coach Katie Calvacca. "Funding is an ongoing issue."

"Training is the biggest expense but there will also be transportation costs," said Richards. 

At this point there are 15 volunteer Recovery Coaches who have all gone through the 30+ hours of training that took place over the course of two months.

"So far it's been totally grass roots," said Wallace.  She said they have received donations of water, sweets, snacks and blankets that will all be needed to provide comfort as a person goes through withdrawal. 

"There is going to be a continuing need for donations," said Richards.

Since the program was announced months ago "several family members have reached out," said Calvacca.  "Family members can get their own coach if their loved one is not ready. "

"Parents can connect to a Parent Coach," said Wallace.

"New Jersey does a good job dealing with addiction after they are in the [legal] system," said Richards.  "We are trying to get them help before they end up in the system.  After someone has been saved by Narcan, we want to be in the hospital.  We want to pair them with coaches and get them into an opiod dependency programs."

Wallace said Becky Carlson, Executive Director of the Center for Prevention and Counseling, has reached out to elected officials including Sen. Steve Oroho for support for this program.

"This is not a sprint, it's a marathon," said Richards.