Will big arrest increase demand for treatment?

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Waits are common for those seeking help getting clean

Last week, the equivalent of 182,000 bags of heroin was taken off Cape May County streets in what is being called the largest drug bust in county history.

Now, some county officials and advocates are hoping more people will seek treatment for their addictions since supply has been drastically cut. But with wait times of upward of two weeks at some centers, finding beds for those who want to get clean could be a daunting task.

“We don’t know exactly how it’s going to affect people who are using who are local,” said Tonya Ahern, who is a member of the Cape May County Heroin Task Force’s Treatment Committee and a member of Parent to Parent, a support group for the family members of addicts.  “I’m thinking we’re going to have a problem with people finding treatment.”

In her opinion, she said that the bust will most likely stop many vacationers to the county from buying and using while here.

But for locals, Ahern said that most people who seek treatment aren’t seeing a bed for two to four weeks after that initial call, and the county is looking for ways to remedy that. She said that there are no detox facilities in Cape May County, so those seeking treatment are often sent to centers like Maryville, which has a facility that offers detoxification in Williamstown, or New Hope’s facilities in Marlboro.

Pat Devaney, director of Cape May County’s Department of Human Services, said that funding for those seeking treatment is available through Sandy aid funds. Because Cape May County was impacted by the hurricane, federal relief funds are available for some residents, but only for detoxification and short-term residential treatment.

“The difficulty is that even if you have funding, the demand is so high that you still wait,” Devaney said.

But there are no facilities in Cape May County that offer those services, DeVaney said, and those in other areas are full. For example, she said that in January, New Hope received 500 requests for treatment, but can only serve 150 at its facility.

Those interested call back to the facility every day to see if there is an opening, she said. That doesn’t mean they get in, and some who may want treatment continue using and could give up.

“We need to get them in somewhere that day,” Ahern said.

Over the next month, the county will monitor if there is an up-tick in the number of requests treatment centers receive. That way, they can get a better understanding of how a large bust like this will affect residents who use heroin and other drugs in the future.

During that bust, over 25 law enforcement agencies from around the state, particularly Cumberland and Cape May counties, raided 18 properties throughout Vineland, Middle Township, and Wildwood. Two men, Carlos Guzman of Vineland and Hector Ramos of Cape May County, were arrested and charged as leaders of a narcotics trafficking network. A third suspect in custody, still unnamed as of Tuesday, was said to have international drug trafficking connections.

Nine other individuals were arrested on charges of conspiracy to possess and distribute drugs.


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