Paterson’s Opioid Response Team Expanding

Source: North Paterson Press

Willie Moody spent four hours each of the past two Thursdays offering coffee, donuts and drug treatment referrals to addicts wandering the streets of Paterson’s 4th Ward. Moody, the executive director of the Paterson-based Tier1 Recovery program, said he plans to keep showing up every week at the same spot near the city’s main library for the coming year.

Moody’s work is part of city officials’ expansion of Paterson’s Opioid Response Team, an outreach program that teams up social service groups with an emergency medical technician and a plainclothes police officer.

What started as a two-day-per-week effort involving two nonprofit groups in the fall of 2021 has grown to five days with six organizations.

One of the six groups, Fountain of Salvation of Paterson, focuses on church-related community events in the city, while another, Paterson CeaseFire, has added the drug treatment referrals to its longstanding anti-violence work. On top of that, the city has reached an agreement for Passaic County to deploy its Hope 1 mobile recovery van in Paterson for days during the week.

The other nonprofits groups retained by the city for the ORT effort are Rapha Healthcare Services of Paterson, City Relief of Elizabeth, and Mainstream Recovery from Eatontown.

City Relief was part of the first year of the program and was picked to be part of its for a second time, with its services being expanded from one day per week to two. The group’s Paterson outreach director, Joe Shultz, said the group would continue focusing on the people who congregate along the railroad tracks near East 18th Street, as well as along Van Houten, Ellison and Fair streets.

Shultz noted that besides providing paper referrals, the ORTs sometimes drive addicts to the hospital, where they can enroll in drug treatment programs that use medications to take away their urges and withdrawals.

Often, Shultz said, it takes ongoing interactions over the course of weeks or months before addicts volunteer for the treatment. During the first year, the City Relief ORTs about 30 to 35 addicts to medication programs, he said.

“Whenever they become ready, willing and able, we can transport them,” he said.

William Henry of the CeaseFire program said his group already spends lots of time in Paterson crime-plagued neighborhoods with its anti-violence efforts. “We’re out on the streets anyway, so we might as well help with this too,” he said. He adds that he encounters many people with substance abuse problems during his work on prison re-entry programs in Paterson.

“I know how to deal with addicts,” he said.

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