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Paterson officials hope ‘Real Fix’ initiative can help put an end to city’s drug crisis

Real Fix brings Medication-Assistance Treatment (MAT) to those struggling with addiction when they need it the most.

Matt Trapani and Eliecer Marte

Jun 22, 2023, 2:49 AM

Updated 366 days ago


Paterson’s Real Fix Initiative is fully launched. The initiative, which was initially a pilot program, puts the city in the running with 15 other cities across the globe to fight back against the opioid crisis.
Real Fix brings Medication-Assistance Treatment (MAT) to those struggling with addiction when they need it the most.
Experts say that every minute counts when it comes to saving the life of an addict going through withdrawal, which is why this program focuses on getting the immediate help addicts need as soon as possible and making sure they are taken on a path to sobriety.
Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh, on Wednesday morning, read more than 10 letters he received from second graders at one of the city’s public schools about the drug crisis.
“’Dear mayor, there’s people selling drugs.’ You see a common theme,” Sayegh says.
Because of this common theme, Paterson officially launched the Real Fix program. The city has won $1 million from the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge to run the initiative.
“Whenever someone overdoses, we administer Narcan. That’s a quick fix. Whatever that individual is addicted to that got them in that state, is a fake fix – the fentanyl, the heroin. But the Real Fix is statistically proven to help people overcome addiction,” Sayegh says.
So how does Real Fix work? Ed Boze, Paterson’s chief innovation officer, explains that the program is built on the premise that the time an addict is seeking help is the time help needs to be delivered.
“They will do anything to avoid withdrawal, so we are offering a solution that they can call 833-REALFIX and get medication to reverse withdrawal – medication that is suboxone,” Boze says.
But it doesn’t stop there. Once a drug addict has the medication in their hands, “Our next phone call is like, ‘Ok, we want to refer you to a brick-and-mortar treatment center. Now you’ve got the medication to bridge you over to that in-person appointment, so now you’re much more likely to show up to that appointment,” Boze says.
The program is aiming to provide a real fix solution to at least 300 drug addicts a year.
“Already we have exceeded our targets for the homeless. We’re really shooting for 25 homeless people a year, and already we’re almost at 60,” says Boze.
Paterson is also looking to become a model city to other municipalities. But what happens when the $1 million grant is gone?
“We are hoping the state can assist us with additional funding. And I'll give credit to our federal representatives. They did get us close to an additional $200,000 for Real Fix,” Sayegh says.
Going back to those letters from the second graders, Sayegh says that the city needs to do better.
“That hurts my heart, it really does. Makes me want to dig deeper and make sure Real Fix has a real impact because we don’t want these young people to succumb to the streets and drugs,” he says.
Sayegh says that Paterson has invested about $100 million designated to improving parks, pools, playgrounds and playing fields. This will allow the youth to have more recreational options.

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