December 13, 2021

Community-Based Intervention Program Helping Paterson Fight Opioid Epidemic

The first ORT intervention involves proactive outreach in the corridors of the City where drug overdoses are most concentrated.

Mayor Andre Sayegh, along with leaders from the Paterson Department of Public Safety, Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office and various other outreach programs, discussed preliminary outcomes of the City’s first Opioid Response Team (ORT) on Monday.  The first ORT intervention involves proactive outreach in the corridors of the City where drug overdoses are most concentrated.

“There have been a number of overdoses in this area [Broadway],” Sayegh said. “And you can see those individuals that have been suffering as a result of addiction. We’re very grateful for our Congressman who has secured federal funding so we can create this Opioid Response Team.”

“The Response Team is helping the City, the drug problems we have," Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr., citing a statistic that more than 115 people lose their lives to opiates every day in America. "We must stop their flow on our own streets and in our own homes. At the same time we must help the victims.”

Since beginning its outreach activities in September, the ORT has made nearly 275 individual referrals to treatment that data shows to be the most effective at supporting long-term recovery.

The team, which began meeting in 2019, is comprised of specially-trained first responders, law enforcement officers and local outreach workers and all of its activities are guided by data collected and analyzed by the partners that include Paterson Department of Public Safety, Paterson Department of Health and Human Services, Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, Passaic County Health and Human Services, Passaic County Board of Social Services, St. Joseph’s Health and the Health Coalition of Passaic County.

In July COAR resurfaced with information in the community to make sure that everybody understood what data they are gathering and what it’s showing them.

“The main goal is to have trained EMS/PD,” Andrea Ramalho, Sr. Program Manager of Alternative Public Safety Strategies said. “Outreach workers as a team specifically go proactively into the geographic areas where we know that overdoses are concentrated and to start discussions with individuals about what treatment options there are.”

“We want to thank the City for picking us [Eva’s Village] as a partner,” Howard Haughton, CEO of Eva’s Village said. “After we had deployed the team…we connect with community members, and we start by giving them food because you can’t hear if you’re hungry. If you’re hungry right now, you’re probably thinking about what you are going to eat, so we come out with food, and we start to engage in conversation.”

Eva’s Village gives out about 100 meals each time they go out. Haughton claims that when engaging with these people, he will often times get their name or if their lucky, a phone number.

“Then they come back a week later because we’re giving out food again, and we’re saying ‘How are you doing?’ we’ve established a relationship,” Haughton said.  “And through that relationship starts the engagement and how we can help.”

Since the program started, Eva’s Village has engaged with nearly 400 people.

"With those referrals," Haughton said, "we’re tracking the number of times that we’re in contact with them, and we’re hearing back that we’re seeing possibly somewhere in the neighborhood people have recently gone into the hospital and to other partner agencies with this referral information to say ‘I need help.’”

Along with the ORT, the City is also part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayor’s Challenge and is the running for one million dollars will be given to the city deemed to have the most actionable and innovative idea.

“Anyone that is struggling with addiction calls our “REALFIX” hotline and we get you the medically assisted treatment through a tele doctor and the pharmacy will deliver the medication,” Sayegh said. “Then we will connect you to a counselor to hopefully put you on a path of sobriety.”

“I am so proud of the work that has been done by the men and women,” Jerry Speziale, Director of Public Safety said. “And we will continue to fight this battle, and try and help those that are addicted and walk them in to get the treatment they need so that we can solve this issue.”