BRICK TOWNSHIP — Stephen C. had been using heroin for 10 years. So long, he said, that he couldn’t remember how or why he started.
When he heard about the Blue HART program through the Brick Township Police Department, he was up to a bundle, or 10 bags, a day and was living in his car.
He kicked opioids once while living in Florida, he said, and was prescribed suboxone to help him overcome his addiction.
But after moving back to New Jersey, Stephen had trouble finding a doctor and soon found himself overcome by his addiction.
“I went right back into using heroin and I couldn’t get help,” he said.
That all changed when he learned about Blue HART.
Within a day, Stephen said he was placed into New Hope Integrated Behavioral Health Care for rehabilitation and later sought recovery services through Preferred Behavioral Health.
“It wasn’t hard to get the help I needed. They seemed like they cared more about it than I did and within a day I was into a place,” he said.
Stephen entered the program in July and has now been clean since August, he said.
His is one of the early success stories of the Blue HART program.
Instituted on Jan. 11, 2017, Blue HART allows addicts to turn themselves into designated police departments without being charged and to be referred to a recovery program, regardless of whether they are insured.
The program began as a pilot program in Brick Township and Manchester as a partnership between law enforcement and the recovery community to offer addicts a long-term continuum of recovery support services.
Blue HART has since expanded to include six Ocean County communities, including Lacey, Stafford, Point Pleasant Borough and soon, Little Egg Harbor, according to John Brogan, chief recovery specialist for Gov. Chris Christie’s Opiate Task Force who, along with the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, helped develop the program.
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