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Statewide fight against heroin expands as Mahwah police make second OD save in two weeks

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

PUBLIC SAFETY: Mahwah police made their second Narcan nasal injection save of an overdosing heroin user in the past two weeks. The news came as the New Jersey acting attorney general issued a directive to police and prosecutors outlining steps “to address the crisis of heroin and prescription painkiller abuse that is ruining and claiming the lives of countless New Jerseyans.”

In the latest incident, occupants of a private residence directed Detectives Guido Bussinelli and Kevin Hebert and Officer Matthew Lombardo to an upstairs bathroom, where they found the 20-year-old victim face-up. He was unconscious, with “a shallow to non-existent pulse” and had turned blue, Police Chief James Batelli said.

The man came to after Lombardo administered two doses of Narcan, the chief said. He was treated at the scene by Valley Hospital paramedics and Mahwah Ambulance corps workers and taken to Valley.

  • YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A Fairview police officer used Narcan to revive an attempted suicide victim who’d ingested several anti-depressants and a large amount of cough medicine last night — the first such save for the department. READ MORE….

This comes after Mahwah Police Officers William Hunt and Christopher Fasulo saved an unconscious 28-year-old Suffern man who overdosed in an A&P bathroom on Oct. 10. Beneath him they found 20 decks of heroin and two hypodermic needles.

“It was later learned that just prior to the incident he had gotten off a bus from New York City and entered the A&P to use the public bathroom,” Batelli said.

The chief called the heroin problem “an epidemic in every sense of the word. He cited “the need to address the problem not only by law enforcement but by medical practitioners, social workers and drug counselors is very clear.

“The problem is not going to be solved through arrests although a strong initiative by law enforcement is important,” Batelli said. “Family members, friends and relatives of substance abusers need to get them the help they need. “Narcan is a great tool for law enforcement but it cannot be viewed as a solution.”

Acting New Jersey Attorney General John J. Hoffman said as much, as well, this past week.

Among other measures, his new directive to all police chiefs, county prosecutors and county sheriffs in the state requires:

  • New statewide training and requirements to ensure that officers responding to an overdose event understand their responsibilities under the “Overdose Prevention Act,” and carry them out with oversight by the county prosecutor (The act protects those who in good faith seek medical assistance for an overdose victim from arrest and prosecution on a charge of use or simple possession of illegal drugs. It applies to the victim, as well);
  • Mandatory reporting each time Narcan is administered, which Hoffman said will enable better tracking and assessment;
  • Development of uniform standards and training to ensure that drug overdoses are properly investigated and that drug dealers are prosecuted for deaths that result from drugs they sell under New Jersey’s strict liability for drug-induced death statute;
  • New mandates to ensure that police and prosecutors coordinate and share intelligence with the newly formed Prescription Fraud Investigation Strike Team (PFIST) – made up of detectives and attorneys in the state Division of Criminal Justice – which will spearhead investigations and prosecutions of healthcare professionals who sell prescription opiates for profit;
  • Enhanced penalties for drug traffickers who sell ultra-dangerous opiate mixtures, such as heroin and fentanyl, or who sell both heroin and prescription opiates. The enhanced penalties will be implemented through revisions to the Attorney General’s “Brimage Guidelines,” which channel prosecutorial discretion in negotiating plea deals for drug offenses that carry mandatory minimum prison terms. Offenders will face 12 to 18 months of additional parole ineligibility for first-degree crimes, and six to nine months of additional parole ineligibility for second-degree crimes, beyond the current mandatory minimums;
  • New requirements and new informational materials to ensure that prosecutors identify offenders who are appropriate candidates for the state’s nationally acclaimed Drug Court Program, in which judges can order addicted non-violent offenders to participate in court-supervised drug treatment, whether they ask for treatment or not.

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