By: Paige Britt, Follow South Jersey Intern
SOUTH JERSEY — The New Jersey Department of Human Services has awarded two homeless shelters with $425,000 contracts to fund addiction recovery and provide access to the proper medications. The program will allow for licensed providers to administer medication to homeless individuals who are seeking treatment at shelters.
The goals of the program are for shelters to employ staff who can prescribe medications and treat those who struggle with substance use disorders, supply same-day care to homeless individuals, develop a non-stigmatizing environment for those seeking help, and to enact harm reduction strategies and interventions within the homeless shelter.
Commissioner Sarah Adelman of the Department of Human Services explained the success she expects to see from the program.
“Many individuals at highest risk for an opioid overdose are those who do not enter or sustain treatment in addiction treatment programs, and this especially includes individuals who are experiencing homelessness,” she stated in a press release from the department. “But data also indicates that those facing instability such as homelessness will seek treatment more readily when services are brought to them. The use of medications to treat substance use disorder is an evidence-based practice that increases the likelihood individuals can embark on recovery. With this new program, we will increase access to these crucial medications and decrease barriers to care and service.”
To encourage and ensure that homeless shelters have the proper staff needed for this operation, the state has assigned two Centers of Excellence focused on the treatment of substance abuse disorders. One is located at the Rowan University/Cooper Medical School in Camden and the other is in Newark at the Rutgers University Medical School. The centers offer free training and mentoring to current prescribers or those who are in the process of becoming certified.
An article from nj211.org reported that in 2022 there were 8,754 people experiencing homelessness in New Jersey with 1,750 were labeled as being chronically homeless, based on a study conducted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development early last year. Out of the 8,754 people identified, 8.9% represent homeless youth. Homeless youth is defined as being families with heads of households being 24 or younger.
Based on the same study, newjerseymonitor.com reported that Essex County had the highest homeless population, with 22%. Following that was Union and Hudson counties with 8%, and Camden, Middlesex, and Burlington with 7%.
The Department plans on expanding this program in the future through grants provided by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
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