PARAMUS, NJ - The New Jersey Reentry Corporation (NJRC), a non-profit agency aimed at helping citizens returning from incarceration live productive lives, has partnered, through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), with Care Plus New Jersey, a non-profit provider comprehensive, recovery-focused integrated primary and mental health care for individuals in the Northern New Jersey area, to provide NJRC clients access to drug addiction treatment. The Thursday signing took place at the Care Plus Headquarters in Paramus.

“With the new partnership any person who’s facing addiction in the state of New Jersey can walk through a New Jersey Reentry site and we will provide you with a linkage to detoxification, IOP outpatient, which is so critically important,” former Governor Jim McGreevey, now NJRC executive director said.

According to a press release, the MOU allows NJRC to refer clients directly to Care Plus’s treatment program for recovering drug users.  The agreement also enables NJRC clients to access Medicated Assisted Treatment (MAT), which prescribes the use of medications, such as suboxone, vivitrol, and methadone that help patients control opioid cravings, while pairing them with counseling to treat substance abuse and overdose. 

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“All too often individuals with opioid use disorder and other substance abuse disorders end up incarcerated without access to the medications they need to survive,” says Dr. Akash Shah, medical director of NJRC. “I don’t know many people that can endure [withdrawal] without medication.”

Speakers said the signing of the MOU is important because it offers essential healthcare to a demographic that needs it most. According to McGreevey, within the first two weeks after being released from incarceration, former inmates are more than 129 times more likely to die from an opioid overdose than other people; making them the most vulnerable segment of the population to suffer from opioid-induced death.

“Police officers have a tendency that they want to arrest their way out of the problem.  It can’t be arrest our way out of the problem,” Paterson Police Chief Troy Oswald said at the event, adding that they are supportive of efforts that makes treatment more accessible.  “We also can’t Narcan our way out of the problem.”

Oswald also offered that the “main culprit” in the opioid crisis has become fentanyl. Significantly more dangerous than heroin, the synthetic drug is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, and, the career law enforcement officer said, adding to the “dire need for access to recovery programs.”

Care Plus New Jersey CEO Joseph Masciandaro explained that the new partnership allows formerly incarcerated individuals to participate in treatment “on their own free will” which yields more successful results.

“Why not get people help when they want it,” Masciandaro asked. “If you’re not ready to get the help, whether it’s AA, MAT or whatever, you’re not gonna make much progress.”

Casey Ferrante is entering her second year at Georgetown and is an intern for TAPinto Paterson.

 

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