Substance Abuse In Bergenfield Borough, New Jersey
In the midst of one of the country’s most severe opioid overdose epidemics, there are few cities, if any, that remain unaffected by the consequences of substance abuse. Within the last year, Bergenfield, a borough located in Bergen County, New Jersey, has seen an upward trend that mirrors the escalating nationwide epidemic.
With a population of 27,647, Bergenfield is a growing district that is home to many neighborhoods and borders the Bergen Country Municipalities of Cresskill, Tenafly, Dumont, Teaneck, Englewood, and New Milford. Among the residents, the median income level comes in at around $80,000 per household. With 6.9% of the population living at, or below the poverty line, unemployment rates are slowly increasing, causing a shift in the economic state of the borough.
With a widening gap between the middle-class and the poor, violent crimes and substance abuse continues to rise. Once ranked among the best places to live in America, Bergenfield has a burgeoning drug problem that cannot be ignored. Reports show that the primary drug of choice is cocaine/crack and heroin. Data also cites many cases of alcohol abuse alongside marijuana, and other drugs and opiates.
As resident’s struggle with addiction, the most vulnerable group in the population is men and women between the ages of 25-59. Although this group has the most access to drugs and other substances, reports have shown that children as young as 8-years of age have been killed by drug overdoses. In New Jersey alone, overdoses account for at least 2,000 of all drug-related deaths. In Bergen County, there were more than 300 drug overdoses in the last year. Among these overdoses, there were nearly 90 deaths. Although Narcan was used to successfully prevent the deaths of some of overdose victims, there are many communities that cannot afford to purchase Narcan.
Bergenfield Borough Taking Action
Used to reverse the effect of an opioid overdose, the state of New Jersey is looking to lower the cost of Narcan in order to make it readily available statewide. To extend support for individuals who have overdosed, the state is requiring that after individuals receive Narcan, they must be treated for their addiction. With local businesses and companies, providing a stable support system for individuals who have overdosed is vital to prevent further fatalities. Recovery specialists and former addicts will be in charge of these efforts – as who better to understand addiction that those who have lived through it? Giving survivors hope for the future, New Jersey in no longer going to sit by and watch their communities be ravaged by drugs and substance abuse.
A tragic reality for families and communities, overdose deaths are entirely preventable. In an effort to combat this epidemic, Bergenfield Borough has decided to take action against New Jersey’s opioid crisis from within. By providing resources to treat and prevent addiction, the community is implementing extensive programs that advocate for prevention and proactivity. By removing the stigma that surrounds addiction, New Jersey is tackling the opioid epidemic by raising public awareness about the dangers of opioids and the importance of preventative measures. The state is working to implement a 7-day limit for first-time prescriptions. Addiction often begins after a patient is prescribed painkillers. To prevent this initial introduction to opiates from becoming a full-on addiction, the limit will decrease the likelihood of addiction and therefore, remove the potential for an overdose.
In Bergen County, officials are making efforts to expand access to drug treatment facilities and meet the needs of the residents. A statewide effort, the facilities incorporate traditional addiction rehabilitation programs that include varying levels of care.
Using state and federal funding, the New Jersey Substance Abuse Monitoring System of Bergen County works with a number of addiction treatment facilities that are categorized based on individual needs. On a case-by-case basis, expanding access to these treatment facilities allows residents to recovery regardless of the referral source. For most treatment facilities, referrals can be in the form of self-referrals, family or friend, Addiction Services Program, Workforce NJ SAI, DCCP, Mental Health, or Criminal Justice.
Whether court-mandated or voluntary, the first step for drug treatment is the assessment stage. For those suffering with drug and alcohol addictions, an assessment is needed in order to understand the extent and severity of the issue. By confirming the presence of an addiction, trained professionals are able to determine the best course of treatment and look at contributing factors related to health history, systems, the effects of addiction, and behavior. All assessments remain confidential, with information only being used to diagnose and develop a treatment plan. After an evaluation, which may be conducted by multiple people, the information from the assessment will be used to pursue the best avenue for treatment.
The first step in the rehabilitation process, the assessment determines which type of treatment would be the most beneficial for the patient. Because assessment confirms addiction by type and severity, the next step in the process, known as intake, involves choosing an addiction rehabilitation program that best suits the needs of the individual seeking rehabilitation. During this process, individuals may be given more diagnostic tests, questionnaires, or screenings. This process allows the rehabilitation center to ensure that their program meets the needs of the patient and to also create a customized treatment plan. After finding a good match, a patient is admitted to the facility. As of this year, Bergenfield Borough, and the surrounding areas provide residents access to over 30 rehabilitation facilities.
After the intake process, individuals must endure one of the most challenging phases of rehabilitation – detox. In order to effectively treat addictions, most facilities require a detoxification phase before any other form of treatment is given. Detox is designed to eliminate all traces of drugs and alcohol from the body. The process varies by individual, influenced by body composition and the particular drugs that were being taken. If there is more than one type of drug found in the body, withdrawal symptoms can be extremely severe. Symptoms include fatigue, sweating, nausea, cramping, shaking and trembling, and more.
During withdrawal, maintained medication may be given to relieve the symptoms of detoxification. Bergen County offers four types of facilities for detox:
• detox residential
• detox hospital
• detox outpatient non-methadone
• detox outpatient methadone
As more and more people found themselves addicted to the drug that was meant to manage their addiction, the drug Suboxone was released in 2002 as a response to the growing dangers associated with Methadone. Offering the same benefits as Methadone, without the potential for addiction, the synthetic opioid formula lessens opioid dependence and has shown to have positive effects on those in the process of recovery. Both drugs are used at rehabilitation facilities in New Jersey, offering patients the ability to access medical assistance after completing a formal rehabilitation program.
In order to provide options for those seeking a less-traditional rehabilitation program, Bergen County also offers early prevention and non-traditional programs that provide resources to individuals who are not yet seeking long-term intervention. After completing an out-patient or in-patient rehabilitation program, the recovery process continues. To fight a community from becoming consumed by an epidemic of overdoses, officials in New Jersey have successfully expanded access to drug treatment facilities and continue to use resources to further expand these efforts. In addition to providing residents with superior rehabilitation centers, there are also programs that have been implemented to increase access to preventative medical treatments. By requiring health insurance companies to cover the Medication Assisted Treatment Programs, it allows a practical approach to treading opioid addiction. By providing medication, counseling, and other forms of support, medical professionals will be given the ability to prescribe medications used to treat addiction and prevent more deaths.
Treatment in Bergen County
In Bergen County, the levels of care include:
- outpatient care (OP)
- intensive outpatient (IOP)
- partial hospitalizations
- opioid maintenance (OP)
- opioid maintenance (IOP)
- extended care
- long-term residential
- short-term residential
- hospital based residential
Residential and Outpatient Treatment
The third step in the rehabilitation process occurs after individuals complete the initial detox from drugs and alcohol. To continue with the next stages of recovery, they must take part in a program that focuses on the reasons behind their addictions and managing those issues. Although the structure of rehabilitation treatment facilities may vary, most offer inpatient or outpatient services, sometimes a combination of both. Inpatient recovery programs include residential treatments that require living at the residence for a determined amount of time. With programs ranging from 28 days to 6 months, facilities are suited with 24-hour support and resources. Patients are able to focus on recovery without the stress and distractions of everyday life. Although free from outside distractions, residential treatment centers require patients to follow schedules and meet in both private and group settings.
In contrast, an outpatient rehabilitation program is less restrictive. Usually only requiring 10-12 hours a week at a local treatment center, sessions in outpatient facilities focus on educating individuals on drug abuse and addiction. Whether involved in individual or group counseling, the teachings found at an outpatient programs are designed to teach addicts how to cope without using. Best suited for individuals with less severe addictions, outpatient programs are similar to inpatient programs in some ways. An alternative to residential treatment, outpatient programs can last anywhere from 3-6 months, allowing patients to visit hospitals or other treatment facilities for monitoring and check-ups. Other parts of outpatient programs may incorporate twelve step programs for recovery such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
Recovery is a lifelong process that requires continual effort. As individuals go through the stages of sobriety, there is always the temptation to use. In order to prevent a relapse, the fourth step of the rehabilitation process is aftercare. After the completion of an addiction treatment program, patients are required to meet with clinicians and counselors to discuss an aftercare plan. Follow-up programs provide support to individuals as they integrate back into their daily lives.
Found in many forms, Bergen County has implemented a follow-up program that is structured as a halfway house that acts as a sober living facility. Similar to traditional half-way houses used for reformed prisoners, the facility allows individuals to work on their recovery among other sober individuals. As with addiction recovery programs, individuals seeking residency at a sober living home must come with referrals from an inpatient residential program, the criminal justice system, or family and friends. Ideal for individuals who are newly embarking on the journey of sobriety, sober living facilities are designed to provide a safe space between formal treatment and returning to everyday life.
Populated with individuals at all stages of recovery and sobriety, there are often rules implemented within the functioning of the facility. To provide structure and order, recovering residents may be required to participate in group therapy sessions, maintain a job outside of the facility, submit to random drug testing, adhere to a curfew and perform household chores. This model provides support during this transitional phase, eliminating the anxiety of going from a structured environment to an unstructured environment. A step down from a formal addiction recovery program, sober living home allows individuals to apply newly learned skills on the way to becoming self-efficient and remaining drug/alcohol free.
Journey to Recovery
On the journey to recovery, it is important to remember the profound benefits of sobriety. Mind, heart, body, and soul, sobriety eliminates the reliance on substances and allows individuals to feel good about themselves while fostering strong relationships with those around them.