SOMERSET COUNTY OPERATION HELPING HAND
SOMERVILLE, NJ - The Somerset County Prosecutor's Office is ramping up its efforts to combat opiod addiction with a multi-pronged initiative modeled after other successful programs in New Jersey.
Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson, along with Chief of County Detectives John W. Fodor, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, and the Office of the New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies Director Sharon M. Joyce announced the commencement of Phase One of Somerset County’s Operation Helping Hand initiative.
In 2016, while serving as the Bergen County Prosecutor, Grewal developed Operation Helping Hand as a new and innovative way to combat opioid addiction. Under his leadership, the first multi-county “Operation Helping Hand” initiative was launched in five counties in June 2018. The Operation Helping Hand program was expanded to 17 counties in September 2018 and to all 21 counties in the state in September 2019.
The Helping Hand pilot program began in Bergen, Morris, Passaic, Sussex and Union counties as a week-long Operation Helping Hand initiative involving law enforcement, county government, and addiction service agencies. The program’s success was demonstrated by having 148 individuals encountered by law enforcement officers choosing to pursue treatment – meaning in-patient detox, inpatient treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, medically assisted treatment, a combination thereof – or recovery support services.
The Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Operation Helping Hand initiative is a multifaceted approach utilizing both arrest and non-arrest models which have been previously successful in other counties throughout the state, according to Robertson. The Prosecutor’s Office plans on conducting at a minimal four preplanned proactive operations which will be conducted between January 2020 and August 2020. During each phase Somerset County law enforcement officers will proactively connect with county residents suffering from substance use disorders and linking them to treatment and/or recovery support services during each encounter.
Phase One of the program will focus on community outreach, concentrating efforts on known at-risk individuals. The Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office worked closely with the New Jersey State Police Drug Monitoring Initiative in the furtherance of identifying potential Somerset County residents who have a known struggle with addiction.
The New Jersey State Police monitors drug activity through the DMI, which uses the collection and analysis of drug seizures, overdoses, criminal behavior, and healthcare-related services to enable law enforcement and public health experts to better understand trends, patterns, implications, and threats to prevent drug misuse and abuse, and to mitigate community drug harms.
Earlier this month, members of the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Organized Crime and Narcotics Task Force, along with members of Somerset County Department of Human Services and Recovery Support Specialists from Reach for Recovery Program from Richard Hall Community Mental Health Center, conducted a door-to-door outreach of known Somerset County residents with substance use disorders, Robertson said.. Recovery Support Specialists proactively engaged Somerset County’s residents in need providing on-the-spot referrals to treatment and other resources.
During the operation the team facilitated one-to-one contact with 17 households establishing 16 positive connections to residents and/or their families, Robertson added.
Robertson and Fodor encourage anyone seeking these professional services to reach out to the Reach for Recovery (R4R) Program at the Richard Hall Community Mental Health Center at (908) 253-3119 and mention the Operation Helping Hand program or the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Helping Hand coordinator at (908) 231-7100 or make a report via the STOPit app.
The STOPit app allows citizens to provide anonymous reports including videos and photos. STOPit can be downloaded to your smart phone for free at the Google Play Store or Apple App Store, access code: SOMERSETNJ. Information can also be provided through the Somerset County Crime Stoppers’ Tip Line at 1-888-577-TIPS (8477). All anonymous STOPit reports and Crime Stopper tips will be kept confidential.