In response to the rise in heroin and prescription opioid drugs in Newark, law enforcement has stepped up efforts to stop drug traffickers. In April 2016, an Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Narcotics Task Force pre-dawn narcotics raid yielded $500,000 in drug-related money, drugs, a 2008 Lamborghini, and nine felony arrests. Those arrested ranged from 21 to 55 years of age. Although the raid was counted as a success for law enforcement, it is important for the public to keep in mind that some of the suspects arrested may be suffering from addiction. If that is the case, the affected individuals who plea or are found guilty may be offered drug treatment services in lieu of a prison sentence. While drug seizures are necessary, many drug policy researchers advise that is critical for the US to move away from incarcerating individuals who are suffering from addiction and offer them treatment instead.

Drug Use Rates in Essex County

Newark, located in Essex County, is home to 278,427 residents (per a 2013 census report). The Department of Human Services Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services provides data on the rate of drug abuse among residents of Essex County. The most current Substance Abuse Overview report was published in 2014. The data was collected from drug treatment facilities that answered questions available through the New Jersey Substance Abuse Monitoring System (NJSAMS). In 2014, the New Jersey Department of Human Services received information on 62,525 drug treatment admissions.

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There is particular concern about the rate of heroin and prescription opioid abuse in Newark. As reported by NewJersey.com, a Center for Disease Control and Prevention report from 2010-2013 shows that the rate heroin overdoses in New Jersey more than tripled over that time period. In 2013, there were 741 heroin-involved deaths in New Jersey, which means that this narcotic represented 8.3 out of every 100,000 deaths in the state, a rate greater than the national average of 2.6 per every 100,000 in the US.

A high volume of heroin appears to be entering the state through Port Elizabeth and Port Newark. In addition to the high availability of heroin, it is purer than ever and sometimes laced with other dangerous drugs, such as fentanyl (a synthetic opioid that can be even more potent than heroin). As Newark residents are close to a major point of entry, they may face a higher risk of heroin use compared to areas further away from the supply line.

The following are selected highlights of the summary findings pertaining to residents of Essex County, including Newark:

  • Residents of Essex County sought treatment for the following drugs of abuse: heroin (2,311), alcohol (1,076), marijuana (979), cocaine (435), other opiates (274), and other drugs (161).
  • Essex County: Of all reported New Jersey treatment admissions to Essex County rehab facilities, 60 percent involved Essex Country residents (3,528). In other words, it’s common for county residents to seek help with drug recovery in their county.
  • Intravenous drug use: Of those Essex Country residents who sought treatment, 22 percent reported using drugs intravenously (1,245).
  • Medication-assisted treatment: Among opiate or opioid users, 1,349 started methadone treatment and 144 began Suboxone therapy. These are US Food and Drug Administration approved drugs that are used as opiate or opioid replacements in the short- or long-term for recovering individuals.
  • The top three sources of referrals to rehab: self-referral (1,753), the criminal justice system (1,597), and the New Jersey Workforce program (440). There were 266 referrals involving friends or family.
  • Biological sex: There were 3,568 male admissions and 2,102 female admissions.
  • Sources of insurance: uninsured (3,462), Medicaid (1,829), Medicare (117), private insurance (291), and other insurance (164).

Getting Help for Substance Abuse in Newark

The RAND Drug Policy Research Center has made a helpful resource available to the public, entitled Substance Abuse Problems and Programs in Newark. A review of the report (starting at page 54) reveals that there are numerous community resources listed for this city. The information includes the name of the community service and the type of services that are offered.

Providing the public with a host of useful information, The New Jersey Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services is responsible for overseeing the operation of drug treatment providers in the state (i.e., the department issues licenses and regulates rehab facilities).

Individuals who are uninsured may visit the New Jersey HealthCare.gov official website to apply for insurance or connect with a trained navigator (i.e., an insurance specialist). A navigator can do an intake with an applicant and use the information gleaned to find a suitable insurance plan. Some individuals may qualify for Medicaid (free, publicly funded health insurance) or a private health insurance plan (under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare). Those individuals who are eligible for a private insurance healthcare plan may also be entitled to a government subsidy, which can reduce the cost of monthly premiums.

If an individual currently has or enrolls in Medicaid or Medicare, the best practice is to contact the New Jersey Department of Human Services for information on drug treatment service providers or refer to the links provided above. In the case of a person who has or enrolls in private insurance, it is best to contact the insurance carrier directly for a list of in-network drug treatment service providers (although the above links are useful as well). In addition, the staff at a drug rehab center may be able to coordinate with Medicaid or the private health insurance carrier regarding coverage of recovery treatment claims.

An individual who is looking for rehab services in New Jersey will find that there are numerous private and public treatment facilities, as well as many caring addiction professionals who are ready to help. Recovery can be a lifetime process but it always starts the same way: with reaching out for help. The key is to keep in mind that there are treatment services available at every level of care for anyone who is ready to recover.