Three years after Gloucester County’s Straight to Treatment program launched, all of its municipalities have programs.
That’s a testament to the likes of Resha Jeneby, assistant prosecutor with the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office, who oversees the program; County Commissioners Jim Jefferson and Nick DeSilvio; Robert LaGuarina of My Friend’s House, which offers substance abuse and mental-health services regardless of a person’s situation; and Andy Lovell of the county EMS.
The Washington Township police were among the first departments to take on the program.
“It’s a critically important program to us,” Police Chief Patrick Gurscik said.
Mayor Joann Gattinelli recalled two people who went through the Straight to Treatment program in its early days and have not been back for additional treatment.
Program stakeholders were at the Mayfair Motel in the township on Oct. 11 to essentially remind the community that the program is still available for anyone who needs it.
“We want everyone to know that there is a safe haven in every county police department,” DiSilvio offered. “You don’t need insurance. You just need to walk in, ask for help, and transportation can be provided.
“You don’t have to feel like there is a sense of hopelessness.”
LaGuarina began My Friends House with his wife Carla in 2016 to give back to the community. He noted that it took a village to bring Straight to Treatment to municipalities. And he said that over the years, he has seen how stigmas surrounding addiction are peeling off.
“The police department used to be the last place anyone with an addiction problem wanted to be,” LaGuarina pointed out. Now individuals can simply walk into the police department and ask for help.
On hand at the Mayfair Motel was Richard LoRusso, who provided Narcan demonstrations. He is a recovering addict who now works for the state police as a recovery advocate.
“If I can do it, anybody can,” he maintained, getting emotional as he reflected on his long journey out of an 11-year addiction.
LoRusso said his wife’s support and a drive to help others have put him where he is today.
“All I want to do is help people,” he said.
Straight to Treatment hotline (856) 766-8870:
- Monday: Washington Township Police Department, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
- Monday: Monroe Township, 2-6 p.m. Hotline: (856) 766-8870.
- Thursdays: Mantua Township Police Department, 3-6 p.m.