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Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care, University Correctional Health Care staff prepare for early release program from prison on March 13

Rutgers University Behavioral and Correctional Health systems collaborate to prepare for mass release of individuals diagnosed with opioid and other substance use disorders.

NEW JERSEY – New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC) plans to release more prison inmates that have received public health emergency credits due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These individuals are nearing the end of their sentences in state prisons and will be released on Sunday, March 13.

Building on their experience dating back to the November 4, 2020 release, the UBHC Peer Navigator workforce (individuals who have lived experience of incarceration, substance/opioid use disorders, or both) will be onsite at each NJDOC facility on the day of release to provide support to the released cohort, along with welcome packets that will include information about community resources and 24-hour phone lines, Narcan, Fentanyl strips, hygiene supplies and snacks.

University Correctional Health Care (UCHC), which is responsible for the oversight and delivery of medical, dental, behavioral health and addiction treatment for inmates throughout the NJDOC, played a significant role in coordinating efforts amongst all agencies.

The Rutgers Intensive Recovery Treatment Support (IRTS) Program employs peer health navigators to assist and support people with their recovery from opioid addiction.  Many staff members are in their own recovery and have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder.  Services are designed to provide recovery-focused assessment, links to treatment, and comprehensive ongoing support.

“We are delighted to be part of a partnership that includes the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC), the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), University Correctional Health Care (UCHC) and the Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care IRTS Program.  Together, this state wide multi-agency approach is allowing for far more successful reentry for thousands of people who are returning to communities across the state, as they continue their road to personal wellness and recovery,” said Dr. Frank Ghinassi, President and CEO of Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care.

“Early intervention and treatment coordination are pillars that support healthy outcomes for individuals and we are thrilled to collaborate in providing effective, compassionate and accessible care,” Ghinassi said.

Peers Navigators will also set up Rutgers tables at the major transportation hubs to continue to engage individuals, provide necessary services and most of all send a message of hope and recovery. The individuals being released typically require follow-up appointments for their mental health and substance use care. The IRTS Program works diligently to coordinate appointments and all clients are offered compassion, empathy, and overall non-judgmental support.  

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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