WOODBURY, NJ (November 4, 2019)--On October 30, Gloucester County Prosecutor Charles Fiore and his staff worked closely with a broad spectrum of stakeholders from the public and private sectors to convene a timely Summit addressing the devastating impact of the Opioid Crisis upon Gloucester County and its communities. In 2018, over 140 fatal overdoses occurred in the county, and 2019 losses are on pace with 2018. To stress the importance of attacking the Opioid Crisis with all available resources, the Summit was grounded with a clear message: “The Goal is Clear. The Path is Set. The Time is Now.”
A key objective of the Summit was to galvanize available resources in forging a viable “Road to Recovery” for individuals and their loved ones trapped in the destructive cycle of addiction. It is abundantly clear that handcuffs and incarceration are not the solution to these complex issues, and that success and momentum will only occur through compassionate collaboration and cooperation which increase the success rates of engagement, treatment, and sustained outcomes.
Approximately 150 participants attended the afternoon Summit, conducted at the Adelphia Restaurant in Deptford, N.J. Participants included Gloucester County Freeholders Frank DiMarco and Jim Jefferson, representatives from the offices of U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, multiple Gloucester County police chiefs, and many health and social service experts who are in the field each day, tirelessly confronting the daily carnage which opioid abuse has brought to every community and neighborhood in Gloucester County. Presentations provided by a number of subject matter experts from the social service, health, academic and law enforcement vocations set forth the challenges of combating addiction and how, working more closely together, alliances can be strengthened and outcomes improved. Extending the reach of this expanded toolkit includes enhanced outreach in local communities, connecting with at-risk individuals who find themselves engaged with the court system, and providing additional training to law enforcement personnel.
Breaking down jurisdictional barriers and silos is essential, as many individuals confront the compound, co-occurring issues of addiction and mental health, making the team approach to engagement and treatment all the more important. Moving those concepts to action, the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office, Gloucester County Division of Human and Disability Services, Gloucester County Police Chiefs’ Association and NJ CIT Center for Excellence joined together during the week of October 21st to offer the County’s first collaborative Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training session, which brought mental health, addiction and law enforcement practitioners together for practical, teambuilding instruction. Many of those involved in the CIT training were on hand for the Summit.
While prevention, engagement and treatment are essential caretaking measures on behalf of those victimized by the Opioid Crisis, the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office (GCPO) and its local, county, state and federal law enforcement partners will remain relentless in pursuing the criminals who manufacture, distribute, and sell these destructive Opioids. As a sign of that resolve, the GCPO also announced at the October 30th Summit that it sought, and on September 10, 2019 received, formal designation of Gloucester County as an addition to the existing Liberty-Mid Atlantic HIDTA Region encompassing the Philadelphia-South Jersey area. This was a major step forward, as Gloucester County was one of only 13 additional counties across the United States to be added to existing HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas) partnerships which exist in areas determined to be significantly impacted by the distribution, sales and use of illegal drugs, including Opioids. Inclusion in the HIDTA initiative will afford Gloucester County additional resources to help combat the opioid epidemic. It is the hope of the GCPO that combining the efforts of the HIDTA program with those of Operation Helping Hand will help to decrease the presence of narcotics in our communities and help those suffering from the grip of addiction to find their “Road to Recovery.”