New initiative enlists police to assist in opioid addiction recovery

The Morris County Sheriff Department is the first sheriff’s department in New Jersey to join PAARI, the police-assisted addiction and recovery initiative.

Sheriff James Gannon says the initiative will allow people with substance use disorder to walk into police headquarters to ask for help.

“They can surrender any substances that they have, or maybe a needle or straw, and we can call in a certified peer recovery specialist or a recovery coach from Daytop New Jersey,” Gannon said.

Daytop treatment program President and CEO Jim Curtin says his team is ready to respond. When a police officer anywhere in Morris County calls, they will send someone to the area.

“More often than not, these are people who had addiction issues in the past themselves so they’ll know how to engage and attempt to evaluate the situation,” said Curtin. “And we think more often than not, for people who are ready, or people who are willing, probably connect them with detoxification services in the area.”

Butler Chief of Police Ciro Chimento says it’s going to be a tremendous help for law enforcement in Morris County.

“On Route 23 in Butler has the infamous name of the ‘heroin highway.’ It’s a hop, skip and a jump to Paterson and we’re constantly dealing with people that are transporting drugs and narcotics. With that now, just through enforcement, it’s not solving the issue,” Chimento said. “We need to stop it at its root and the PAARI program will allow my officers to offer these type of referrals to the people that they arrest and encounter.”

“The gold star is trying to prevent fatal overdoses and saving lives, but we’ve also seen most departments that do a program like this see a reduction in crimes associated with addiction as well,” said PAARI Executive Director Allie Hunter McDade.

Almost 500 police departments nationwide participate in the program.

“We piloted this program in Gloucester, Massachusetts in June 2015. The first year of the program, 600 people walked into the Gloucester Police Department and 95% of those we were able to get into treatment that same day.”

The launch of PAARI coincides with the two-year anniversary of the Hope One initiative — a mobile recovery van that goes around Morris County with addiction and mental health services. In the past two years, the sheriff says that roughly 6,400 people have approached the Hope One van asking for assistance. He says PAARI is another way to help the addiction crisis.