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Bergen Prosecutor, Medical Chief Highlight Hackensack Heroin, Opioid Summit

Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal
Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal Photo Credit: Jerry DeMarco

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal continues his multi-pronged campaign against heroin and other opioid abuse with a summit in Hackensack on Friday.

The gathering, in the conference center at Two Bergen Plaza, begins with check-in at 9 a.m. The program begins at 9:30 a.m. and runs to 1:30 p.m., with a light lunch.

Experts, those in the field and county citizens are all welcomed.

Dr. Mark Rosenberg, the chairman of Emergency Medicine and Medical Director for Population Health at St. Joseph’s Healthcare System, will give the keynote address.

Panel discussions will be held on prevention, enforcement and treatment.

Panelists will include:

  • Police Chiefs Kenneth Ehrenberg (Paramus), James O'Connor (Lyndhurst) and James Batelli (Mahwah);
  • Bergen County Prosecutor's Detective Donnie Ingrasselino and Paramus Detective Sgt. James Teehan;
  • Patrick Hughes, director of Behavorial Health Services at the Bergen County Jail;
  • Joe Masciandaro, president/CEO of CarePlus NJ;
  • Sue Marchese-Debiak, director of Addiction Serives at the Bergen County Department of Health Services;
  • Gail Cole, co-founder of Hope and Healing After An Addiction Death.

Grewal, meanwhile, will discuss some of the innovative programs he’s spear-headed in collaboration with other public and private agencies.

A former federal prosecutor, he has united various disciplines to address the epidemic through programs that he said take law enforcement "out of our lane."

These include:

• A pilot program that allows users to walk into police stations one day per week to get the help they need. Right now, police in Lyndhurst, Paramus and Mahwah are operating the program;

• Pairing every surviving overdose victim with a "recovery specialist" who's been down the same road, provided by Paramus-based Children's Aid and Family Services;

• Following Bergen buyers to Paterson and elsewhere -- with the blessing of Grewal's Passaic County colleagues in blue -- then taking them into custody when they return and offering them treatment options, through "Operation Helping Hand."

After a recent "Helping Hand" roundup, 15 of 42 people arrested and brought to Grewal's office in Paramus agreed to accept intervention -- not in lieu of charges but to help them reclaim their lives.

Recovery specialists "stayed with" those who refused, eventually convincing 15 more to accept treatment.

Making it possible was Bergen Regional Medical Center's offer of however many of its 84 detox beds were needed, the prosecutor said.

"Some of [the users] relapsed, but that will happen," Grewal said. "We're going to stay with them."

Grewal has also gone into 50 ninth-grade classes and spoken to nearly 10,000 students about the perils of starting prescription pain medication at a young age -- including alerting them to their right to "informed consent," so that they can refuse such drugs no matter their age.

INFO/QUESTIONS: (201) 226-5509

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