Ocean County Awards Contracts To Fight Substance Abuse

With the completion of a community needs assessment and the development of a strategic plan, the Ocean County Board of Commissioners, following the recommendations of the Ocean County Opioid Advisory Council, has taken steps to implement evidence based services and programs to remediate the opioid epidemic.

The Commissioners recently approved the award of five competitive contracts to non-profit agencies that will address substance use prevention and early intervention, innovative substance use programming and care management for individuals with substance use disorder with comprehensive wraparound services.

The funds for the services come from a nationwide settlement agreement against distributors and manufacturers of opioid pharmaceutical products.

“Ocean County is making certain the amount received from this settlement will allow us to reach the most people and will provide the most beneficial services to our residents with substance use disorder,” said Commissioner Frank Sadeghi, liaison to the Ocean County Department of Human Services. “For years, Ocean County has worked with a host of agencies and law enforcement to educate and raise awareness about addiction.

“The steps we take now are critical to stemming this continuing deadly epidemic that seems to know no boundaries, doesn’t care about age, race or economic status,” Sadeghi said. “We are using this money for good in our communities, providing greater educational opportunities and providing needed assistance that addresses the opioid epidemic.”

The Ocean County Board of Commissioners, on Dec. 20, 2023 awarded the following contracts:

  • Sea Change Recovery Community Organization to provide care management for individuals with substance abuse disorders with comprehensive wraparound services, in an amount not to exceed $148,270.
  • Preferred Behavioral Health Group to provide care management for individuals with substance use disorders with comprehensive wraparound services, in an amount not to exceed $409,559.
  • The Mental Health Association in New Jersey Inc. to provide care management for individuals with substance abuse disorders with comprehensive wraparound services, in an amount not to exceed $242,171.
  • Hope Sheds Light to provide innovative substance use programming, in an amount not to exceed $100,000.
  • The Ocean County Board of Health to provide substance use prevention and early intervention in an amount not to exceed $200,000.

“Each of these contracts will provide programs and services to specific segments of our population with the ultimate goal of addressing addiction,” Sadeghi said. “With these programs in place, hundreds of our residents will get needed help.”

For instance, Hope Sheds Light will expand its Pathways to Workplace Wellness program under its contract working to change the culture within the workplace and to foster a healthy and safe environment where employers, employees, and communities can collaborate and eliminate barriers for employees in recovery from substance use disorder.

The Sea Change Recovery Community Organization proposes to serve up to 600 participants annually. Certified peer recovery specialists will provide one-on-one support for individuals and their families to assist with supporting, advocating, mentoring, educating and navigating systems of care.

The Mental Health Association in New Jersey “MORE Project” aims to serve about 100 participants annually. The program will incorporate skill building and education, prenatal peer support for pregnant moms in recovery, on-going peer recovery care management, recovery housing assistance, participant specific assistance and group facilitation.

And Preferred Behavioral will collaborate with Hope Sheds Light to offer the Foster Hope for the Future Program which will serve about 100 participants annually with extensive peer recovery support, clinical care management, and sober living.

“When we can take people and provide them with direct services whether it be counseling, housing, workforce development, we are creating a much better future for them,” Sadeghi said. “That is what we are doing in awarding these contracts, we are providing a more certain future where there may not have been one.”

The Ocean County Board of Health will target sixth graders as part of the “We’re Not Buying It 2.0” program, a prevention curriculum that will be presented in schools throughout the County. In the first year at least nine schools will be outreached.

“We know substance use prevention and early intervention programs are always beneficial,” Sadeghi said. “Bringing this directly to our schools will have a positive impact on our children.”

Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners Barbara Jo Crea noted these services are part of the approved Ocean County Opioid Advisory Council Plan for 2023 to 2026.

“This plan has been the subject of many discussions and meetings with our staff, outside mental health providers, addiction specialists, the prosecutor and a host of other individuals,” Crea said. “With this plan we will take the money Ocean County is slated to receive from the National Opioid Litigation Resolution against pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors and work toward positive goals to help our residents in several areas.

“Ocean County will use about $900,000 annually from our $15 million settlement to help our residents who suffer from drug addiction or substance use disorders find help, to educate our children and to raise awareness, to work at prevention and early intervention, to help those battling drug addiction get back on their feet following treatment through workforce development assistance,” she said.

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