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New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal , “We can’t arrest our way out of the opioid epidemic”

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July 2,2018

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Hackensack NJ, on June 27th New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal held press conference announcing the results of an innovative five-county collaboration involving law enforcement, county government, and addiction service agencies to connect individuals suffering from the disease of addiction with vital recovery services through “Operation Helping Hand.”

“These results are extraordinary and are a testament to the dedicated work of all who participated in this unprecedented operation in New Jersey. While we know some of these heroin users who accepted detox beds or support services will lapse into drug use again, there can be little doubt with these numbers that lives were saved – that heroin users who would have become statistics of the opioid epidemic will instead recover and reclaim their lives.”

“The results of this five-county operation reaffirm my strong belief that Operation Helping Hand is a program we need to implement throughout New Jersey and offer as a model to other states across the country. We can’t arrest our way out of the opioid epidemic, but we have learned that we can, in fact, save lives by making arrests, if we engage in this type of collaboration among law enforcement, government, and the addiction-service community.” – Attorney General Gurbir Grewal

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Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S
September 1, 2016

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Hackensack NJ, Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal announced today the arrests of 40 people from August 28, 2016 through Thursday, September 1, 2016, as the result of “Operation Helping Hand” – an innovative and collaborative law enforcement and public health initiative targeting the heroin and opioid crisis in Bergen County.

Ridgewood had two residents Christopher J. O’Brien and Lyndsay A. Paul, both 32, who were charged with possession of heroin.
This investigation was the result of a multi-jurisdictional task force consisting of local and county agencies coordinated by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office under the direction of Officer-in-Charge, Deputy Chief Robert ANZILOTTI. Assisting in this investigation were members of the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff Michael SAUDINO. These detectives and officers formed the backbone of the multiagency task force. The municipal police agencies participating in this investigation were: Bergenfield Police Department; Cliffside Park Police Department; Dumont Police Department; Englewood Police Department; Elmwood Park Police Department; Fort Lee Police Department; Lyndhurst Police Department; Mahwah Police Department; New Milford Police Department; Saddle River Police Department; Tenafly Police Department; and Upper Saddle River Police Department. In addition, valuable assistance was provided by Bergen County officials, including Bergen County Executive James J. Tedesco, III, and Bergen Regional Medical Center.In 2015, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Intel Unit and Narcotic Task Force analyzed overdose data as well as deployments of NARCAN, the overdose reversal drug, in
Bergen County. That analysis revealed the following with respect to 2015:
288 total reported overdoses, 231 of which were heroin/opioid-related;
87 overdose fatalities, 71 of which were heroin/opioid-related; and
187 NARCAN deployments by law enforcement officers, resulting in 170 lives saved.In 2015, the hardest hit municipalities were:
Garfield with 23 overdoses;
Lyndhurst with 20 overdoses;
Fort Lee with 15 overdoses;
Lodi with 15 overdoses; and
Cliffside Park with 14 overdoses.Similar analysis of available data for 2016 year-to-date, revealed the following:
202 reported overdoses, 158 of which were heroin/opioid overdoses; and 48 total overdose fatalities, 40 of which are believed heroin/opioid-related.

In an effort to address this issue in a novel way, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office collaborated with Bergen Regional Medical Center to set aside a number of 5-day detox beds for a one-week period for individuals arrested on drug charges, who were battling addiction. Thereafter, on August 28, 2016, members of the multiagency task force described above began enforcement actions in areas known for narcotics sales, namely heroin sales. As a result of those operations, the task force arrested the individuals reflected on the attached spreadsheet. In addition to arresting them, task force members presented the option of participating in a voluntary detox program at Bergen Regional Medical Center that was available to them. The detox program was not in lieu of criminal charges. Approximately 12 individuals have afforded themselves to the detox option, and task force officers then either transported or are presently in the process of transporting those individuals to Bergen Regional Medical Center to enter into the detox program.

Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Grewal states that the charges against the defendants identified on the attached spreadsheet are merely accusations and that the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and would also like to thank the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office, the Bergen County Executive and Bergen Regional Medical Center, as well as all the municipal departments that participated for their assistance with this initiative.