A new pilot program has been launched to train law enforcement officers and community stakeholders in New Jersey on how to recognize and interact with children and families affected by addiction and connect them with the proper systems of care.

The program is known as The Child Trauma Response Initiative, according to New Jersey Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin, Department of Children and Families Commissioner Christine Norbut Beyer, and Department of Human Services Commissioner Sarah Adelman.

The initiative will launch in three pilot municipalities across the state: Asbury Park, Millville, and Plainfield.

The Child Trauma Response Initiative is being paid for with $2 million in opioid settlement funds. It will be administered under the Office of the New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies (NJ CARES), within the Department of Law and Public Safety, in coordination with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and The Department of Human Services (DHS).

The goal is to give law enforcement the tools necessary to identify families, especially children, impacted by addiction during opioid-related incidents, and then link them to services they need to receive treatment.

“Among those hardest hit by the addiction epidemic are children who experience trauma as a result of a parent or caregiver’s substance misuse. Sadly, this suffering is often overlooked,” said Platkin.

By recognizing his victims and intervening to help them, the hope is this initiative will play a key role in reversing the long-lasting and destructive ripple effects of the opioid crisis, he added.

About a third of children who enter foster care in the state have a parent suffering from substance abuse, according to Beyer.

“Historically, child welfare systems have taken an unforgiving and punitive approach with families impacted by substance use disorder. We want to change that,” she said.

This pilot is a key step in assisting families so they can find healing and move forward successfully, Adelman said. Children and families who battle their struggles are often overlooked in the system which can impact them for life, she added.

Under the program, law enforcement and community stakeholders will be trained to identify the need to link families to treatment services as a result of addiction in situations such as when:

— A parent or other adult member of a child’s household has overdosed

— A parent or other adult member of a child’s household has been arrested on drug-related charges

— Law enforcement has responded to a domestic incident involving children, where drugs were involved

Kelly Levy, acting director of NJ CARES says they will use opioid settlement funds to continue to find innovative and impactful ways to bolster the resiliency of communities harmed by unlawful drug manufacturers and others.

Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at jennifer.ursillo@townsquaremedia.com

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