HUNTERDON’S START INITIATIVE EXPANDING

Hunterdon County Prosecutor Anthony P. Kearns III, Chief of Detectives John J. Kuczynski, and Safe Communities Coalition Project Director Lesley Gabel announce expanding partnerships in the START Initiative that will make the program available to people throughout the state.

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The START (Steps To Action Recovery and Treatment) initiative is a concept, designed in collaboration with the Safe Communities Coalition, almost three years ago to provide direct referral information, contained in a prepared packet, to individuals who may be ensnared in the grips of an addiction or other crisis. Initially, these packets were only given to individuals as they were released from jail or police custody. After the initial rollout, the initiative received an overwhelming response and new partnerships were formed to allow the program to reach out to a greater number of people. Another vital partnership is with Hunterdon Healthcare. Through the START initiative, they have reached many in need, particularly patients entering the Emergency Department. According to Lesley Gabel, Safe Communities Coalition Project Director, “Since 2013, over 2,000 START packets have been distributed to our community partners with new requests for more packets coming in every week. The new START packet not only provides information on addiction services, but includes information on prescription pill safety and disposal, as well as other mental health issues.” According to Prosecutor Kearns, “Getting the message out to the public and letting them know about the valuable resources that are available is vital to helping people prevent addiction, overdoses, and cope with their problems. Our core responsibilities are to enforce the laws, while at the same time, striving to save lives. Law Enforcement will not be able to arrest our way out of this epidemic. We will do justice and seek to preserve the quality of life that we enjoy here in Hunterdon County and throughout the state.” Chief of Detectives John Kuczynski said, “The START Initiative is endorsed by the New Jersey Association of Chiefs of Police and is going operational in other counties. The response has been excellent. Law Enforcement agencies throughout the State of New Jersey have embraced the START program concept. Police Officers and Troopers deliver the referral and resources packet to families and victims at the time of their crisis.

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We are enthusiastic about expanding the program throughout New Jersey and beyond.” Chief Kuczynski added, “Our local community partners such as the clergy from Hunterdon’s One Voice and various other human services groups in the County are participating. The Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office has also partnered with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Community Outreach Program and has provided the START initiative to outreach representatives in every county in New Jersey.” Chief Kuczynski concluded, “Because the heroin epidemic is nationwide, the START Initiative is also being provided to United States Department of Justice’s National Criminal Justice Reference Center. We had discussions last week with our Federal partners about START and our Diversion Program for Adolescents known as LEAP, (Law Enforcement Adolescent Program).” The START initiative will also be presented to the New Jersey Traffic Officers Association on November 2nd. Over the past three weeks, Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office Detectives placed over 500 START Packets in the County Libraries, other community locations, and replenished local police and State Police agencies. The START referral packets are assembled and provided by the Safe Communities Coalition utilizing staff and volunteers. For more information please visit www.safecoalition.org. Anyone with information for law enforcement can submit anonymous tips by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800- 321-0010 or by going to www.crimestoppershunterdon.com, or text messaging “HCTIPS” plus your tip message to 274637 (CRIMES). Tipsters can also download the free mobile app “Tipsubmit” and select Hunterdon County to submit anonymous tips via text messaging. All tips are anonymous and kept confidential.

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