Bill to establish law enforcement-assisted addiction and recovery programs is now law

TRENTON, NJ — Legislation sponsored by state Sen. Richard Codey and Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee Chairman Joseph Vitale that would establish law enforcement-assisted addiction and recovery programs was signed into law on Oct. 26, according to a press release.

Under the law, the director of the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services in the Department of Human Services will be required to establish, upon the request of a municipal or county police department, law enforcement-assisted addiction and recovery programs in those departments throughout the state.

“The raging heroin and opiate addiction crisis in New Jersey requires us to constantly reexamine how we do things. The reality is when individuals suffering from substance abuse fear law enforcement action, they are less likely to seek help when they need it,” Codey, who represents parts of Essex and Morris counties, said in the press release. “This law addresses that perception and will help those individuals get the treatment they need without fear of arrest.”

“Substance abuse is a disease, not a crime, and individuals who are battling addiction require an integrated approach that involves law enforcement, health care professionals and mental health specialists working together to help put guide them to the road to recovery,” Vitale, who represents Middlesex County, said in the release. “Law enforcement-assisted programs across the state will help in that effort.”

Under the law, the director, in consultation with the attorney general, will be required to: prescribe by regulation requirements for county and municipal law enforcement departments to establish or authorize the operation of a program within their departments; develop and implement guidelines for the recruitment and training of law enforcement officers, volunteers and treatment providers to participate in the program; support and facilitate the linkage of law enforcement-assisted addiction and recovery programs to facilities and programs that provide appropriate substance abuse recovery services and health care services; coordinate with law enforcement officials and program volunteers to ensure that individuals seeking to participate in the program are treated with respect, care and compassion, and are reassured that assistance will be provided; establish requirements for an individual to be eligible for participation in the program; and develop and implement procedures for determining eligibility requirements for the program.

In New Jersey, the overdose death rate related to heroin and opioid addiction is currently three times the national rate. In an effort to increase access to treatment for heroin and opioid addiction, certain law enforcement departments in New Jersey and in other jurisdictions have worked with community professionals and volunteers to provide additional support to those who need it. The law takes effect on the first day of the fourth month, in this case February, following enactment.