April 25, 2022

Paterson Opioid Response Team Places Social Workers At St. Joseph's Emergency Department

ORT Social Workers will be available during critical hours for individuals seeking recovery
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Mayor Andre Sayegh and Paterson’s Opioid Response Team (ORT) announced on Monday that it has partnered with St. Joseph’s Health to place two ORT Social Workers in the Emergency Department.

The two social workers will be available during the times when data shows an influx of individuals seeking recovery and support. As of 2020-2021, the number of suspected overdoses has increased in Paterson to as many as 1,600 per year.

In 2022, analysts see the same amount coming in with about 400 overdoses this month.

“Paterson for the last few years has really ramped up our efforts relative to those who are struggling with opioid use disorder,” Sayegh said. “We are encouraged to announce that there is even more help for people in need, as a result of this new initiative where we’ll have two Social Workers as a part of this collaboration with St. Joseph’s Hospital in the Emergency Department to help those struggling with opioid use disorder, get back on track and on the road to recovery.”

The initiative’s goal is to assure consistent case management to those seeking opioid recovery options and related support, whether they enter City Hall, the Department of Health and Human Services, or St. Joseph’s Emergency Department.

“We’ve been really blessed to have our partners, to sit and look at data and try to understand where the gaps are,” Andrea Ramalho, Senior Program Manager of the Paterson Police Department said. “There is so much wraparound support that is needed to get an individual struggling with homelessness and addiction up-and-out of the cycle and into effective treatment. That's why these additional supports, especially placed in the ED, are necessary.”

For the last two years, the Paterson Coalition for Opioid Assessment and Response (COAR) has been tackling data collection and programmatic development in response to the opioid epidemic. COAR is overseen by the Paterson Police Department and includes a variety of County and City partners. All of COAR’s activity has been operationalized by Paterson’s inaugural ORT.

“It’s really an honor to be here to collaborate with the City of Paterson,” Dr. Alexis LaPietra, FACEP, Chief of Pain and Addiction Medicine at St. Joseph’s Health said. “St. Joseph’s Health and the City have been committed for decades to stopping the opioid epidemic and saving lives. People are dying, and they are dying on their doorstep, so we really have to act. This program has been innovative, aggressive in getting people into health, overcoming the many, many barriers that lie ahead of them for sustained recovery. The St. Joseph’s medical team is committed to using medications to decrease the death we see. We are so blessed that the City is allowing us our Social Workers a station that will address case management and social services needs.”

“It is a great pleasure to be a part of this initiative to help decrease the overdoses,” Tamica Ruffin, a social worker said. “It’s a great opportunity to be collaborating with other agencies that provide opportunities.”

“No longer are we going to accept the increasing death toll from the opioid epidemic,” LaPietra said. “We’re going to be radical, we’re going to be able to go crazy, and we’re going to continue to collaborate with the City and the healthcare system to stop this thing.”

If you or someone you know in Paterson is struggling with opioid use, call 8-3-3 REALFIX or 9-1-1.