UNION COUNTY, NJ — The county’s freeholder board Thursday night approved funding for an organization that works to combat opioid abuse, new equipment and training for firefighters, and healthcare and anger management training services for incarcerated adults.

Prevention Links Receives Additional Funding

Prevention Links, an organization that partners with the county’s Operation Helping Hand program, was awarded a total of approximately $170,000 for services in the year 2020. The organization received $110,000 from the county and $58,734 from a state grant.

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The funding will be used in part for the Union County Helping Hands 365 Program. This program, launched by the county in July, includes a 24/7 hotline and additional services for those struggling with addiction.

Acting Prosecutor Lyndsay Ruotolo said Prevention Links will benefit greatly from this additional funding.

“They’re a small organization, a small local organization that truly does incredible, life-saving work on a shoestring budget,” Ruotolo said. “So, without additional funding, I don’t think they’d be able to impact the amount of lives they do.”

Firefighter Training and Equipment

The freeholder board approved a contract with Continental Fire and Safety, of Hamilton, for the purchase of up to $108,671.45 in fire rescue equipment.

In addition to this, the board approved the acquisition of excess equipment from the U.S. Department of Defense as part of a federal program. The county’s police force has participated in this program since 2016, said Public Safety Director Andrew Moran.

“It has allowed us to acquire everything from computers, monitors, to night-vision goggles, and vehicles,” Moran said.

Moran also said eleven of the county’s firefighters will participate in a specialized training at Texas A&M University. Four are from Elizabeth, two are from Union, and one each from Linden, Springfield, Berkeley Heights, and Kenilworth.

“It’s very specialized training in large-scale fires,” Moran said. “It’s one of the only areas in the country that offers this type of training, and it’s, from the feedback that I get from firefighters, it’s some of the best training that they’ve received in their career.”

The training is completely grant-funded, Moran said.

Finally, the board approved a $15,000 annual uniform and clothing allowance for the Union County Fire Mutual Aid Coordinator and Deputy Coordinators.

“The coordinators are often responding on their own time, when they’re home with their personal clothing on,” Moran said. “Once it’s subjected to a fire scene, it’s very difficult to get that smell out.”

Inmate Healthcare and Anger Management Resources

The board approved two resolutions for services for the county’s inmate population. The first is a three-year agreement with CFG Health Systems, of Marlton, to provide comprehensive institutional healthcare services for the Union County Jail for up to $4,964,401 each year. The contract takes effect January 1, 2020. The county has partnered with CFG for the past three years, Corrections Director Ron Charles said.

Les Paschall, the CEO of CFG Health Systems, thanked the freeholder board and Corrections department during the meeting.

“Thank you for giving us the opportunity to continue the work that we, collectively, are doing in facilitating the healthcare for the citizens and inmates in Union County,” Paschall said. “Without [Charles’] partnership with meeting our goals in healthcare in Union County, we wouldn’t be successful.”

The second contract is with Community Access Unlimited, of Elizabeth, to provide anger management training for inmates throughout 2020, for an amount not to exceed $30,000. An average of 11 inmates participate in the program each week, Charles said.

Next Meeting

The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders will hold their next meeting December 19 at 7 p.m. at the Administration Building, 10 Elizabethtown Plaza, 6th Floor in Elizabeth. This meeting will be both an Agenda Setting Session and a Regular Meeting.