While people might not realize it, New Jersey is currently in the midst of a very real public health crisis that is showing little sign of abating despite the best efforts of state officials. Specifically, the state continues to be plagued by the abuse of heroin and opioids, with the number of overdoses -- many of them fatal -- continuing to climb.
Making matters worse, law enforcement indicates that much of the heroin currently being sold on the streets is now even stronger, as it's being mixed or substituted with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is as much as 50 times more potent than heroin.
As dire as this situation is, some solace can be found in the fact that both lawmakers and law enforcement have adopted an approach to the problem that is more progressive than punitive. In other words, there is an understanding that the answer to the problem isn't necessarily through more arrests and longer prison sentences.
By way of example, consider a pilot program being run in several cities and counties -- including Bergen and Ocean -- that encourages those suffering from drug addiction to turn themselves in at police stations.
While this might sound like some sort of trap for the unwary, this is far from the case. Indeed, these pilot programs are designed to allow people to report to designated police stations on certain days and request treatment, which they will receive.
In fact, those who show up with drugs on their person, seeking to get rid of them to ease the recovery process, will not be charged with any manner of criminal offense.
"So far we've had about 125 people that we've actually processed through the program," said one Ocean County Prosecutor. "People have packed their luggage and they're ready to go."
Thus far, Atlantic County has yet to announce any plans for such a program. However, given the success that's already been seen in other counties, here's hoping they follow suit.
If you have been charged with any sort of drug crime, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can help you explore all of your options.