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Bergen Prosecutor To Use Recovered Heroin Addicts As Mentors

Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli
Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Outgoing Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli on Monday announced the creation of a "Recovery Coach Academy" that enlists former heroin users as mentors for current addicts.

Molinelli said he's seeding the program with $7,500 in funds forfeited by criminals to give recovered addicts "the knowledge and skills necessary to allow them to guide and mentor others through their own recovery process."

The prosecutor said he's asked Children's Aid and Family Services of Fair Lawn "to interview responsible Bergen County residents who have endured their own addiction and have sustained a long-standing recovery to be trained as recovery coaches."

CAFS will handle the selection process and monitor training provided by the Center for Addiction Recovery Education and Success of Rockaway, the prosecutor said.

The center "has substantial experience in training individuals for this purpose," he said.

There will be "anywhere from 15 to 20 mentors who will undergo a 5-day training curriculum [that] will teach them many subjects, including pathways of recovery, resources and referrals, boundaries and self-care," he added.

Molinelli, who has been asked by Gov. Christie to step down after 13 years in office, has made dealing with heroin in North Jersey a priority of his administration -- pairing law enforcement with various treatment options.

The academy's initial purpose, he said "is to provide a resource for the many individuals who overdose on opiates and other drugs in Bergen County and whom are saved by the utilization of Narcan."

Overdosing addicts rescued by local police go to a hospital and are often "released back to the community without follow-up," Molinelli said.

"While there has been some change in attitude among many hospitals to automatically provide addictive care services, the thought is to dispatch a member of the Recovery Coach Academy to the hospital and to interact immediately with the individual who has sustained the overdose and addiction," he said.

The theory is that "someone who has overdosed from heroin will more readily accept the need for help" from someone who's been in the same place.

CONTACT: Tammy Adkins (administrative assistant to the program coordinator, Ellen Elias): (201) 336-7381.

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