HACKENSACK - Officials say 12 of the 40 people arrested in a Bergen County this week on drug-related charges have agreed to enter into detox programs under a new initiative.
Eleven of those arrested under "Operation Helping Hand" agreed to enter a five-day detox program at a hospital in Paramus. One agreed to enter a program at the Bergen County Jail.
Prosecutors say they'll still face criminal charges.
“We have to make the arrests but this isn’t about a numbers game. This isn’t about ‘Look at all the arrests we made for drugs’,” says Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino. “It’s a quality of life issue. It’s getting help to those who need the help.”
Prosecutors acknowledged that the five-day detox program may not prove successful in deterring addicts from future drug use and criminal behavior. However, they hope those arrested will eventually enter long-term treatment.
“We’ll see how this plays out a month and half or two months from now and measure our successes,” says Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal. “[We’ll] see when we'll do it again.”
After the detox program the offenders will have the assistance to join long-term rehab centers. Officials say that if the county will make more beds available in the future, they will repeat the program again.
Officials are also working to distribute the anti-overdose medication Narcan to more police departments and are facilitating an outreach program in schools to combat the spread of heroin.
Grewal says there were 87 overdose deaths in Bergen County last year. There were 231 overdoses linked to opiates. There have been 48 overdose deaths this year, 40 of which were heroin-related.
The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.