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Recovery Road

Cumberland County’s Office of Aging makes a retired fleet bus available for the purpose of meeting those with substance use disorders—on the street.

by Kevin Howard

Officials from Cumberland County have announced a new mobile bus service for those in need of help with their substance abuse.

On Thursday, August 8, officials from the Cumberland County Freeholders, Cumberland County Department of Human Services, Prosecutor’s Office, Sheriff’s Department, Health Department, and Inspira Health held a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Inspira Health Center in Bridgeton for the official launch of the Recovery On Wheels (R.O.W.) bus.

Melissa Niles, Cumberland County director of Human Services, explained that the Office of Aging retired a fleet bus early while the County Prosecutor’s Office was executing Operation Helping Hand, which is a grant initiative from the state Attorney General’s Office that has law enforcement play an active role in helping individuals with addiction find treatment and recovery support.

This allowed county agencies to pool their resources together to create Recovery On Wheels, a “mobile addiction recovery unit” that travels to places that are currently underserved and need help directly.

R.O.W. will have certified drug and alcohol councilors and trained recovery coaches. It will also have people who can transport those that are ready for detox and treatment.

The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office will take care of the maintenance of the R.O.W., including fueling, storage, and supplying a driver. They will also dispose of any used prescription drugs or illegal drugs. The Sheriff’s Office will also give temporary IDs to anyone that does not have one, the ID will be specifically made for the purpose of going to a rehab center.

“Historically, people do not know where to go or how to access substance use disorder services when they need it,” Niles said “Or if they do know where to call, they’re often told to call back the next day or the next day or the next day. And we know if they ever do have an opportunity […] either that window of opportunity and willingness has closed, [they] are no longer interested or they’re dead.”

Other services include Narcan education, information and referrals to social services, needle disposal, hepatitis A vaccinations, and distribution of drug-deactivation Deterra Pouches.

The R.O.W. began travelling through the county to scheduled locations starting on Monday, August 12.

Cumberland County Freeholder Director Joe Derella admits that while Cumberland County does indeed have troubles, that does not stop people from acknowledging them and tackling them head-on.

“To emphasize the fact, that here in Cumberland County, we’ve had our share of challenges,” Derella said. “And what’s unique about us, we may be low on some of these key lists across the state of New Jersey. But the one list we are on top of is we do not shy away from our issues and our problems. We acknowledge them, we go after them. And we pull together all the resources possible to solve them.”

“Recovery On Wheels allows us to go to them, to give them some hope—to let them know that we are here, and we care,” Niles said. “And we’re going to be able to help them if they want it. And if they don’t want it that’s okay, too.”

David Moore, executive director of Inspira’s Behavioral Health Services, says that the R.O.W. will let those who are seeking help find a way to recovery.

“To have this van, and to have that message, and to have that education, the ability to link directly into services from this, is just another piece of making sure, that everybody that is thinking about getting on that road to recovery sort of has an entrance path to it. So it really is a piece of a puzzle to make our community a healthy and more vibrant community,” Moore said.