"Operation Helping Hand" Nets Nine Arrests, Offers Treatment for Those Suffering Opioid Addiction

Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes announces the most recent results of “Operation Helping Hand”, an innovative law enforcement and public health initiative targeting the opioid crisis in Passaic County.

On Saturday, September 26, members of the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office Narcotics Task Force conducted Operation Helping Hand, a one-day street operation resulting in nine arrests.

The individuals arrested were residents of Bergen, Morris and Passaic Counties in New Jersey and Queens, New York. Assisting with the operation were members of the Totowa Police Department, Wayne Police Department, and Woodland Park Police Department.

“Operation Helping Hand” provides an alternative to immediate incarceration and offers substance abuse treatment. Each individual arrested during this initiative was privately screened by a peer recovery specialist from the Morris County Center for Addiction Recovery, Education and Success (CARES) in an effort to connect them with treatment and recovery services.

All the individuals arrested as a result of this operation accepted substance abuse treatment. They either made arrangements to begin out-patient treatment at a later date or were transported directly to treatment facilities by a member of law enforcement.

Acceptance of treatment is not in lieu of arrest. Rather, this process turns law enforcement encounters into an opportunity for individuals to turn their lives around and help break the cycle of addiction by connecting each individual with vital treatment, recovery and support services.

In 2019, Passaic County law enforcement agencies administered 329 Narcan Deployments. Narcan, which is also referred to as Naloxone, is a medicine administered by way of a spray into the nostrils of someone suffering from an opioid overdose, in an attempt to counteract that overdose.

In addition, there were 103 fatal overdoses reported in Passaic County in 2019. With the collaborative effort of law enforcement and substance abuse treatment agencies, it is the mission of all those involved that the number of people afflicted with opioid addiction eventually decreases and that those who once suffered from its grasp can lead fruitful, productive, and healthy lives.

Many thanks to the following law enforcement partners who assisted in this weekend’s operation: Totowa Chief of Police Carmen Veneziano and the Totowa Police Department, Wayne Chief of Police Jack McNiff and the Wayne Police Department, and Woodland Park Chief of Police John Uzzalino and the Woodland Park Police Department.

This endeavor would not have been possible without the support, dedication and commitment from all the peer recovery specialists from Morris CARES who assisted in pairing those seeking treatment with the appropriate programs and facilities.