CAMDEN, NJ — Camden police officers have spent several weeks canvassing city neighborhoods to share information about resources for those dealing with drug addiction.
As part of "Operation Helping Hand," officers - wearing face masks and socially distancing - have placed door hangers for residents to know they can seek help for themselves or for loved ones.
The program began locally Aug. 18.
“We’ve seen through the New Jersey State Police through their DMI reporting that we’ve had an increase in overdoses,” said Lt. Carlos Plaza, who serves as the Lieutenant on the Narcotics Unit. “Part of that was specifically here in Camden city, so the decision was let’s figure out ways to create an outreach of some sort to get our hotline number to everyone who may need this assistance.”
According to a spokesman as of Sept. 9, the county has had 201 overdose deaths (229 this time last year).
In 2008, the New Jersey Attorney General's Office and NJ Cares said Operation Helping Hand would extend to Camden County.
Det. Andy McNeil, among the officers who volunteered for the recent initiative, said, “A big part of [helping to fight substance abuse] is going to be connecting with the community and making sure that folks out there know that there are resources out there to help their loved ones if they’re battling addiction.”
Plaza said that while some in Camden County may not reach out to law enforcement right away, the program's goals will continue to be decreasing overdoses locally and creating a safer place for all to live.
“It’s an experience that I think none of us want to go through, but what I want people to understand, particularly family members and those who are suffering from substance abuse, is that we’re here by all means not only to enforce laws, but we’re also here to be compassionate and serve them as best we can,” Plaza said.
To contact the Operation Helping Hand Hotline, call 877-266-8222.