Cherry Hill joining up with rest of Camden County to participate in Project SAVE

Pilot program aimed at responding to growing opioid addiction crisis to take root

By BOB HERPEN — The Sun

Cherry Hill Township is slated to be one of 32 municipalities throughout Camden County to participate in an aggressive effort spearheaded by the county Freeholder Board to continue the fight against opioid use and abuse.

Project SAVE (Substance Abuse Visionary Effort) is a pilot program modeled after and based on the initiative Gloucester Township created in 2014. Since the start of the program until this September, the township has reached almost 200 individuals suffering from opioid use disorder.

As the nation grapples with a public health crisis that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, killed 72,000 people last year, county government has taken proactive measures in searching for innovative ways to treat residents in crisis.

“We look forward to the implementation of this innovative option for individuals that wind up in the criminal justice system because of their addiction issues. By offering community-based solutions and treatment options to curb drug abuse and promote public safety, Project SAVE is tackling the complex set of core issues behind why these crimes are committed in the first place,” said Cherry Hill Mayor Chuck Cahn.

“In addition to the short-term goals of reducing drug addiction and improving public safety, we hope to see additional long-term benefits from these treatment options, as people become more productive members of their families and their communities. By offering Project SAVE to each Camden County town, the freeholders are attacking this important public health and safety initiative head-on.”

Berlin Borough, Berlin Township, Clementon, Haddonfield, Hi-Nella, Somerdale, Waterford Township and Tavistock will also participate in the one-year pilot program that will focus on early intervention by licensed social service professionals in the municipal court system.

Other participating municipalities are Gibbsboro, Voorhees, Mt. Ephraim, Oaklyn, Barrington, Audubon, Merchantville, Magnolia, Pine Hill, Pennsauken, Lawnside, Woodlynne, Gloucester City, Runnemede, Lindenwold, Collingswood, Audubon Park, Bellmawr, Brooklawn, Camden City, Haddon Heights and Haddon Township.

The program is being implemented for one year to look at the effectiveness of having an advocate and navigator for nonviolent offenders suffering from opioid use disorder. The objective of this program will be to save lives, stabilize suffering individuals and reduce chances of repeat offenses. According to a release issued by Camden County’s Division of Public Affairs, more than 50 percent of inmates at Camden County Jail have a use disorder and nearly 300 individuals lost their lives to opioid overdose throughout the county in 2017.

The Freeholder Board expects to provide $100,000 to start the program and monitor its investment through the county Department of Health and Human Services.

Freeholder Louis Cappelli Jr., founder and active member of the Camden County Addiction Awareness Task Force, discussed plans for future expansion.

“We are looking at all options to make a long-term impact on this epidemic. We have seen the impact this program has had on a small scale, and we believe as a governing body we should be opening it up and providing the same hope and opportunity for treatment, detox and recovery throughout the entire county. It is no secret that every municipality in the county is struggling with this crisis and the sooner we have the ability to get professionals intervening to stop it, the better off residents will be,” he said.

For more information about the Camden County Addiction Awareness Task Force, visit www.addictions.camdencounty.com. If you or a loved one needs help, call the 24/7 toll-free confidential hotline at (877) 266–8222, or call 911 in the event of an emergency.

Camden County’s Office of Mental Health and Addiction is located in the Michael J. DiPiero Center for Human Services, 512 Lakeland Road, in Gloucester Township. It can be reached by phone at (856) 374–6361.