New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, announced a three-pronged effort underway in the Garden State to battle opioid addiction today. The project will be managed through the Office of the New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies (NJ CARES) and will link law enforcement and prescription drug data to try to limit prescription drug abuse.
The project is called “Operation Helping Hand” and was developed in Bergen County. Law enforcement officers are working with community health partners to proactively engage individuals suffering from addiction and facilitate their access to treatment and recovery support services.
Attorney General Grewal developed Operation Helping Hand as a new way to combat opioid addiction in Bergen County while serving as the County Prosecutor in 2016. The program expanded to five counties in June 2018. Seventeen counties in New Jersey are expected to participate in Operation Helping Hand as part of the expansion of the program being announced today.
The expansion is being funded with $1 million in federal funding, which the New Jersey Department of Health received from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and sub-granted to NJ CARES.
Fifteen Operation Helping Hand grants have been awarded so far to the County Prosecutors’ Offices in Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, Salem, Sussex, Union, and Warren counties. Grant awards are pending for two additional counties. Each county may receive approximately $58,000 for the program.
Alongside Operation Helping Hand, the state has launched an Integrated Drug Awareness Dashboard (IDAD) that allows state agencies to exchange and analyze information about opioid use to present a more comprehensive picture of the impact of the opioid epidemic in New Jersey and to better inform strategies to fight it.
New Jersey brought on SAS to build the dashboard. Data available through the IDAD includes the number and types of prescription opioids being dispensed throughout the state, drug lab analysis data and the locations of heroin, fentanyl and other drug-related arrests. Plans are underway to enhance the IDAD to include other state agencies and to expand the types of data included in the system, including public health data.
New Jersey used a combination of state funds and a grant from the US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Program to build the dashboard.
“There’s much more to be done, but we are making important progress in our fight against the opioid epidemic in New Jersey,” said Attorney General Grewal.
New Jersy also announced a partnership with Rowan University to provide subsidized continuing education program for New Jersey health care professionals, designed to help them spot signs of opioid addiction and prevent addiction among their patients. The training will come through a series of videos and webinars that health care professional can follow along with to understand the signs of addiction. Funding for the project comes from the $100 million that the Murphy Administration committed to combatting the opioid epidemic in FY2019.