The city of Paterson, located in Passaic County, runs a Drug-Free Community Support Program, with the support of Mayor Joey Torres. The goal of the program is to reduce the rate of substance abuse among residents and to strengthen the community against crime. The program includes anti-drug youth activities, educational programs, and various events hosted by local government, law enforcement, religious organizations, businesses, and community services. For information about program events, it is best to contact the City of Paterson.

Drug Use, Overdose, and Treatment Rates in Paterson

The nationwide heroin and prescription drug crisis is directly impacting the Paterson community. From a government perspective, there are different ways to gauge the rate of substance abuse in a community, including number of treatment admissions, overdose rates, drugs tests conducted in mortality cases, drug tests taken after traffic arrests, surveys, and police seizures of drugs. As the Times Herald-Record reports, Paterson is part of a drug trafficking pipeline that is providing New Jersey with inexpensive heroin and thus fueling the crisis. Police seizures of drugs in Paterson reveal that heroin is greatly available.

According to the township of Wayne, New Jersey, there has been a 700 percent increase in the number of heroin overdose deaths in Passaic County since 2011. In 2011, there were five heroin overdoses in Passaic but then the number increased as follows: 23 in 2012, 33 in 2013, and 43 in 2014. Camden County had the highest number of heroin overdoses in this period: 66 in 2011, 75 in 2012, 65 in 2013, and 89 in 2014. Somerset, by comparison, was among the lowest ranking counties in terms of heroin deaths: two in 2011, five in 2012, 15 in 2013, and 14 in 2014. However, even the counties with the lowest rates showed an upward trend in heroin overdose fatalities.

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In 2014, the state of New Jersey published statistical findings on the rates of drug abuse in Passaic County. A selection of the summary findings follows:

  • Treatment admissions for Passaic County residents: The greatest number of treatment admissions was for heroin abuse (1,501), followed by alcohol (776), then marijuana (535), cocaine (275), opiates other than heroin (176), and other drugs (120).
  • Referrals to drug treatment for residents came from the following sources (not a full list): criminal justice (1,427), self-referral (668), addiction services program (373), the intoxicated driver resource center (419), family/friend (413), and mental health professional/facility (13).
  • Regarding medication-assisted treatment: 378 recovering individuals started methadone maintenance and 70 began to take Suboxone. Note that these drugs are used only for the treatment of opiate (e.g.) or opioid (i.e. prescription pain killers) abuse.
  • Health insurance at time of admission among Passaic County residents: uninsured (2,443), Medicaid (966), private insurance (191), Medicare (41), and other insurance (85).
  • Level of care: Most of the Passaic County residents who entered recovery treatment were in outpatient care (1,237), followed by intensive outpatient care (776), and then opioid maintenance (354). Other forms of care available were short- or long-term residential care, halfway houses, partial hospitalization, and detox (outpatient or residential).
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These substance abuse rates reflect that while much of the media’s attention lands on heroin and prescription opioid abuse, there are many dangerous drugs of abuse being used by Passaic County residents. But people are also traveling to Passaic County’s cities, including Paterson, to buy drugs. As the Times Herald-Record reported, in October 2015, a Warwick resident traveled to Paterson to buy heroin. The young man died as a result because the heroin was laced with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is even more potent than heroin.

According to reports, Paterson is known to be a city in which to buy inexpensive heroin. This narcotic sells for $3-5 per 1/10-gram bag. Individuals who use heroin may buy a brick of heroin, which is 10 bags. Some of these individuals are able to resell the bags and continue to buy heroin for their own use with the profit. According to police authorities, Paterson and Newark are major players in the heroin crisis throughout northern New Jersey, the lower Hudson Valley, and the Tri-State area (New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut).

How Passaic Residents Can Get Help for Substance Abuse

The New Jersey Department of Human Services’ Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services provides numerous resources to individuals who need help with recovery from substance abuse. The official website includes contact information for rehab centers, hotlines, and guidance on getting help.

As referenced earlier, most Passaic residents who entered drug treatment programs did not have insurance. The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, provides the public with a streamlined process for getting health insurance. Residents of New Jersey can visit HealthCare.gov to learn if they are eligible for Medicaid or a private marketplace insurance plan. Individuals who are offered private marketplace plans may be eligible for a government subsidy to lower the monthly cost of the premium. Navigators are trained insurance counselors, and they can help an applicant to find a suitable insurance plan as well as conduct a screening for Medicaid eligibility. Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and all marketplace insurance plans must cover some addiction treatment services. An insurance provider or navigator can provide further information.

These resources represent only a fraction of those that are available. Although substance abuse can have a devastating impact on individuals and families, it is critical to know that help is readily available. As referenced above, individuals find their way into treatment through different paths. It helps to keep in mind that research shows that individuals who are referred to drug treatment tend to fare just as well as those who self-admit to a rehab center. The first step is to decide to reach out for that help.