Our community, like the rest of our state and country, is in the midst of an opioid use epidemic. In 2016, the Sussex County area had 32 overdose deaths due to heroin, prescription medications and other drugs, up 28% since the previous year. Additionally, there were 52 overdoses where Narcan was administered by law enforcement officers in an attempt to revive a person, an 18% increase in its use since 2015.
Substance use impacts the community on multiple levels and recovery is a solution that benefits everyone. The Sussex County C.L.E.A.R. initiative is a collaboration with many key stakeholders that have worked together to make a difference in our county. The Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office, Sussex County Police Chiefs’ Association, Newton Police Department, Atlantic Health’s Newton Medical Center, Center for Prevention and Counseling, County of Sussex along with C.L.E.A.R volunteer recovery coaches and a group of treatment providers have made an idea a reality where individuals and families are being assisted in accessing treatment and finding a path to recovery.
Leading the way in local recovery efforts, the Sussex County C.L.E.A.R. Program offers improved access to treatment and free recovery coaching services to individuals and families or loved ones affected by a substance use disorder. New Jersey recently passed bill A-3744/S-2330 establishing law enforcement assisted addiction and recovery referral programs, validating the C.L.E.A.R. program approach.
Furthermore, this new, proactive and collaborative approach between public safety and public health professionals has proven successful in similar programs across the nation; assisting people in accessing treatment and recovery support and reducing criminal activity related to substance use. A study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that the Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative (PAARI) of Gloucester, MA was far more successful in placing people into detox and addiction recovery programs than hospital-based programs with similar goals. This shatters the perception that law enforcement, long trained to arrest, would be the last to help people with substance use disorders.
Since launching the C.L.E.A.R. program in Sussex County on July 18, 2016, over 75 people have called the C.L.E.A.R. hotline for information and/or assistance and 37 people affected by substance use disorders have engaged in recovery coaching services with volunteer CCAR certified Recovery Coaches. Additionally, of the 22 who have walked into the Newton Police Department or called the toll-free number, 18 of those people have accessed treatment.
Plans are currently underway to expand the C.L.E.A.R. program to reach even more people in need. Additional points of access will be available at other Police Departments and more Officers and Recovery Coaches will be trained to help people seeking assistance for addiction. As the program continues to grow and help new people, the need for funding has become more apparent. From printing outreach materials to transportation costs, community contributions can help make the C.L.E.A.R. program even more effective. Please visithttp://clearprogram.org/how-you-can-help/ to learn more about how you can contribute.
In an effort to spread the word about C.L.E.A.R., a short video about the program was created and developed by staff at the Center for Prevention and Counseling (CFPC.) Newton Police Chief Michael Richards is featured in the PSA along with Newton Police Detective Joe D’Annibale, Recovery Coach Kelly LeBar and CFPC’s Recovery Support Coordinator Katie Calvacca. The PSA is available to be viewed at clearprogram.org/about orfacebook.com/SussexCountyCLEAR Community members are encouraged to share this PSA with others in an effort to spread the word about C.L.E.A.R.
Those seeking assistance can call 1-844-SC-CLEAR or come to the Newton Police Department on Trinity St. between the hours of 8am and 5pm, Monday through Friday.