A report by the state Attorney General's Office in the spring of 2014 addressing the state's opioid crisis led to the creation of NJ Connect for Recovery, a warmline for Garden State residents to call either if they are suffering from substance use disorders, or are loved ones of those suffering.

Here's how it works: If the person calling is concerned about his or her own substance abuse, they will be connected to a certified alcohol and drug counselor who can provide support, community resources, information about treatment, and potentially an assessment of the severity of the problem. If the caller is a loved one, the person on the other line will likely be a family peer specialist, whose "lived experience" may prove valuable to the caller.

That's according to Joanne McCarthy, the program's director of call center services. She said when someone has a substance use disorder, it affects the whole family, so loved ones need to take care of themselves, while avoiding steering conversations with their troubled relative in a more negative direction.

"A lot of times what we get is, the person is calling and they're saying they want to get their loved one into treatment," McCarthy said. "They're not really all that concerned about themselves."

The phone number can also be useful for someone who has lost a loved one to substance use, in which case information about bereavement groups will be provided.

For a person who may have a problem, McCarthy said reaching out to a total stranger is not an easy thing to do, and it takes a great deal of courage to make that difficult call.

"You can take somebody who may be in (the) pre-contemplation stage, which used to be referred to as denial," she said. "That's a huge step for them, to reach out and to say, 'You know, I think something's wrong. I think I need some help.'"

McCarthy said the call center staff is compassionate, caring, and nonjudgmental, encouraging callers to check back in as many times as they may need and promising full and undivided attention. Staffers will also ask if a caller would like to be called for a follow-up. She said one of the most common responses from people who've used the number is, "I'm so glad I called."

Finally, and most importantly: The NJ Connect for Recovery line is 855-652-3737.

Patrick Lavery is Senior Producer of Morning News and Special Programming for New Jersey 101.5, and is lead reporter and substitute anchor for "New Jersey's First News." Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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