WEST ORANGE - Officials in an Essex County town say that they will begin treating drug addiction like a disease and not a crime.
West Orange Police Chief James Abbott says that throwing a drug addict in jail simply doesn’t work.
"They fought hard on the war on drugs. I don't mean to take anything away from them,” Abbott says. “But it's been six decades. It's a causal failure. It doesn't work. You can't arrest your way out of this problem."
Chief Abbott says that the police department will launch Operation Hope this fall. If a drug abuser physically comes to the police station and asks for help, they will not be arrested. Instead, they will be paired up with a volunteer.
“There’s going to be a lot going on in their heads. They might even be physically feeling uncomfortable,” says West Orange Social Services Director Patti Duffy.
Duffy says that the program provides a safe, comfortable environment for an addict once they decide that they’re ready to get help.
“It’s going to allow for us to help the community out for people that are in need and hopefully get them the help that they need,” says Lt. John Morella.
A bill allowing other police departments to have similar programs will be voted on in the New Jersey Assembly next Monday.
A program similar to this was first started in Gloucester, Massachusetts.