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Editor’s Note: This article was updated with comment from Darrin Russo at 3:32 p.m.
Somerset County Sheriff Frank Provenzano is partnering with North Plainfield Police Chief Bill Parenti on a program to reduce recidivism rates among people who use opiates.
“Sheriff Provenzano and I have determined that the complex epidemic ravaging our communities requires thoughtful and outside-the-box solutions. Due to criminal justice reform in 2017, which expedited the bail and pre-release process, individuals are more likely to be released prior to or while experiencing the onset of opioid withdrawal symptoms,” Parenti said. “This only increases the risks for a potential overdose.”
The program involves offering inmates addicted to opiates all three of the drugs approved to treat opioid addiction, methadone, Suboxone, and Vivitrol.
In 2016, such a program was instituted in Rhode Island, where it has reduced opioid-related recidivism and overdoses.
Parenti is the Republican candidate to succeed Provenzano, who is retiring this year after 18 years as sheriff.
Parenti’s Democratic opponent, Darrin Russo viewed the program in a favorable light, but viewed the timing of the announcement skeptically.
“I like to see any law enforcement agency, obviously, take some steps to help people that have an addiction,” Russo said. “But to do this now is nothing but a stunt for votes.”
There are about seven weeks left before election day.
Russo said if the move was not politically motivated, Provenzano and Parenti would taken action on opioid addiction sooner.
“After meeting and holding a compassionate conversation with Chief Parenti, I have instructed my staff to seek and apply for grant funding to support his proposed MAT program,” Provenzano, who has endorsed Parenti, said. “The program will reduce staffing burdens, save taxpayers money, and most importantly, work towards combating and reducing recidivism rates amongst those caught in the cycle of addiction.”