Guest Blog: Operation Helping Hand

The ongoing pandemic continues to have a profound impact on those affected by substance use disorder.  In 2020, more than 2,300 people in New Jersey died of a drug overdose through September, a majority of which involved some form of opioid.

Attorney General Gubir Grewal and the Office of the Attorney General have continued to support and collaborate with the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ) on a number of efforts to address the opioid crisis effecting our state, including our Law Enforcement Conference, Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day, and participation in other PDFNJ/Horizon Knock Out Opioid Abuse Initiatives.

We are grateful for the leadership and dedication of the Attorney General Grewal for prioritizing the opioid epidemic and our continued partnership with them.  We hope that you can join us tomorrow at 11 a.m. for our latest collaboration with the New Jersey Attorney General and NJ Cares --   A Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day Learning Series Webinar, Burnout on the Frontline: Managing Covid-19 Fatigue. To register, please click here.

For this week’s blog, I am so pleased to share information on the nationally recognized Operation Helping Hand, which is another vital initiative to help address the opioid epidemic.

Continued wishes to stay safe and well.


By the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General

Operation Helping Hand

The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General is treating the opioid epidemic for what it is: one of the greatest public health crises of our time. Operation Helping Hand (OHH) is a critical tool in fighting this epidemic. OHH partners law enforcement and recovery specialists in an initiative that uses law enforcement encounters to make recovery resources available to individuals suffering from substance use issues. Following such an encounter, when users recognize that they are at a crossroads, OHH gives them the opportunity to choose the path of treatment and recovery.  If they are not ready, law enforcement officers let them know that options are always available to them at a later time, often through follow-up visits or phone calls.  

In 2016, while serving as the Bergen County Prosecutor, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal developed Operation Helping Hand as an innovative, prosecutor-led program to address the opioid epidemic.  The traditional model that started in Bergen County involves law enforcement officers arresting users purchasing heroin or other narcotics at open-air drug markets and then immediately offering to link those individuals to care.  The charges are not dropped if the user accepts help, but every effort is made to place him or her on the path to recovery.  

Beginning in 2018, Attorney General Grewal made it his priority as head of the Department of Law & Public Safety to expand the program throughout New Jersey. With the support of federal and state funds, he successfully expanded the program into all 21 counties in New Jersey.  Under Attorney General Grewal’s direction, each county has tailored its OHH program to address the unique circumstances and needs of its communities. Some counties continue to operate traditional, arrest-based OHH programs, while others have chosen to have law enforcement proactively link individuals suffering from substance use issues to treatment and/or recovery services through non-arrest means, including roving vehicles, court programs, and direct outreach to individuals identified as most at-risk of overdosing. 

The majority of all OHH law encounters lead to an acceptance of help, either during initial contact or through subsequent outreach.  As a result, OHH’s enlistment of law enforcement officers as front-line allies in the battle to end the opioid epidemic has proven successful in breaking the cycle of addiction for hundreds of individuals throughout the state and undoubtedly saved lives.

Notice: This article reflects the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ). This information should not be construed as legal advice from the author or PDFNJ. Please consult your own attorney before making any legal decisions

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