Operation Helping Hand brings one-stop help to those suffering from drug abuse or mental health problems

Law enforcement and social services agencies are hoping to make a difference in South Jersey when it comes to those suffering from substance abuse or mental health problems through their new mobile units.
“You can’t tell someone when they’re ready for help that they have to wait,” says Amanda Leese with the Volunteers of America Delaware Valley.
Volunteers were on site Tuesday with the Pine Hill Police Department, the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office and the state Attorney General’s Office to launch Operation Helping Hand.
The goal is to get social services to residents in need in a timely manner.
"The insides are set up with private areas so individuals can do a mental health assessment. We can have a psychiatrist through Legacy on the mobile unit. We do our intakes on the unit,” Leese says. “They have laptops, printers, everything you would need. They have hygiene products, clothing, snacks for our clients. So, when we say it's a one-stop, we really are a one-stop for all social services."
The mobile units are able to help with a variety of needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, including housing, employment, mental health and substance abuse.
“I believe at this point we’re at 72+ overdose deaths this year and it’s just March,” says Camden County Prosecutor Jill Mayer. “I think that’s the highest it’s been in the last five years.”
The Pine Hill Police Department was one of the first to partner with Volunteers of America. Other departments have followed suit.
Mobile units are not covering Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May and Mercer counties.
Law enforcement officials say that the all-in-one method is crucial.
“It’s a significant point of getting that individual at the time to those immediate services instead of giving them an appointment for a week away or trying to get them a referral,” says Pine Hill Police Chief Christopher Winters.
Monday’s Operation Helping Hand event was an offshoot of Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s program to help fight opioid addiction in New Jersey.