May 14, 2020
Under the direction of Morris County Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp and Acting Chief of Investigations Christoph Kimker, Special Enforcement Unit Detective Supervisor Ramon Lopez participated in a virtual substance use recovery event on May 13, 2020. Following a screening of the award-winning film, “Life with Layla,” Detective Supervisor Lopez joined a Question and Answer session alongside members of the recovery community.
The online event was part of the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office partnership with the recovery community to bring help to those suffering from substance use disorders. The event was under the Operation Helping Hand program to connect individuals suffering from substance use disorder to treatment opportunities. Panelists included the filmmakers behind “Life with Layla,” a documentary profiling seven-year-old girl growing up in New Jersey in a family with drug and alcohol addiction.
Detective Supervisor Lopez discussed how the law enforcement community has evolved its approach to substance use over the years. Today, officers approach from a different perspective – treating the underlying cause as opposed to “trying to arrest their way out” of what has become an epidemic. Prosecutor Knapp said, “Our goal is to save lives. The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office collaborates with CARES (Center for Addiction & Recovery Education & Services) workers to connect those entering the penal system with rehabilitation services.”
Taking questions from panel attendees, Det. Supervisor Lopez characterized our strategy as reaching out using helping hands, as opposed to handcuffs.
Last autumn, Morris County Prosecutor’s Office rolled out the next phase of Operation Helping Hand (OHH), a coordinated and collaborative operation with local and county law enforcement partners. If an individual is arrested for a possessory controlled dangerous substance offense during an OHH operation, they will be offered the opportunity to avail themselves of recovery resources. If accepted, the individuals will be referred to a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist from the Center for Addiction, Recovery Education and Success (CARES).
Prevention is Key hosted this virtual screening and Zoom panel on Wednesday, May 13, co-sponsored by Community Coalition for a Safe & Healthy Morris, Pequannock Township Coalition, Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, and Operation Helping Hand. Prevention is Key is a private, non-profit health organization providing prevention education programs, professional development training, advocacy, information and referral services, that address issues of substance use prevention, recovery and support.
Prosecutor Knapp said “Unfortunately our community continues to be impacted by the opioid epidemic. As part of our comprehensive approach to combat this scourge, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office continues to collaborate with the recovery community as part of Operation Helping Hand. Connecting those struggling in the community with treatment providers is our goal. Community awareness about addiction issues is critical to help prevent this disease.”