Mayor Andre Sayegh and other officials on Wednesday morning said the city has been awarded a $600,000 federal grant to gather data and produce solutions to tackle the ongoing opioid crisis.
Funds from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance will go towards producing a data driven response to so-called “emerging drug threats.”
“We want to properly assess the situation,” said Sayegh at the auditorium of St. Joseph’s University Medical Center. “We have to manage this situation much better.” He said the effort will be carried out by the city of Paterson, Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, and St. Joseph’s University Medical Center.
Six months will be spent on planning, said the mayor.
“The goal for this team is to analyze and respond,” said Passaic County prosecutor Camelia Valdes. She said that involves gathering data on at-risk people, looking at trends, and conducting outreach. “This will not be a cookie cutter just another program.”
Grant is for 2 years, said the prosecutor.
The exercise will allow those involved to “truly identify ways that work,” said Alexis LaPietra, a medical doctor, chief of pain management at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center. “We want to serve as a model.”
St. Joseph’s University Medical Center has been coming up with solutions to tackle the opioid epidemic. For example, its innovative Alternatives To Opiates (ALTO), first in the United States, to treat pain without using addictive opioids, has been hailed as a national model.
LaPietra said the various partners in the effort have been meeting once a month. She said there are also conference calls that take place on top of the monthly meetings.
“The opioid epidemic is the most formidable foe I have ever seen,” said public safety director Jerry Speziale. “This is about data. It’s about evidenced-based solutions. This is about collaboration and partnership.”
Speziale said lieutenant Todd Pearl applied for the successful grant.
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