With more and more Garden State residents dying from opioid drug overdoses, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has announced the creation of a new office to fight the opioid abuse epidemic.

The Office of the New Jersey Coordinator of Addiction Response and Enforcement Strategies, or NJ CARES, will oversee multiple addiction-fighting efforts within the Department of Law and Public Safety and create partnerships with other groups and agencies to attack the opioid epidemic.

According to Grewal, NJ CARES will expand the current Prescription Monitoring Program and create round-the-clock Opioid Response Teams of local police, substance abuse counselors and mental health advocates to help steer users into treatment.

An electronic data sharing network will be created to gather opioid-related data from different state agencies. An online portal will be open to members of the public to review real-time information about overdose deaths and other addiction data.

Grewal said opioid abuse “is such a wide ranging problem that touches so many disciplines. The missing piece from our response was the coordination across these disciplines.”

The former Bergen County prosecutor said coordinating efforts to combat the opioid epidemic is key.

“I’ve seen firsthand on the ground how successful it can be at a county prosecutor’s office when you bring together law enforcement, when you bring together treatment providers, when you bring together social workers. I’ve seen it work.”

The attorney general said NJ CARES will work with “community partners, public and private partnerships, because that’s the type or coordination and collaboration that’s going to allow us to put an end to this epidemic.”

He said the office, when it begins operations in the next few weeks, will launch a “listening tour” to hear from parents, treatment providers, health care professionals to determine what additional efforts are needed.

“We’re doing everything possible to help break that cycle of addiction, arrest, overdose, and we’re trying to avoid the next overdose death.”

He added the people of New Jersey should know “we’re bringing every resource and authority that we have to bear on this issue. We are sharing information about where the overdoses are occurring and what frequency they’re occurring.”

“We want parents to talk about this with their children. For those parents who didn’t think it was happening in their backyards, it is."

Grewal made the announcement during a symposium at the Seton Hall University School of Law on Thursday.

Sharon Joyce, who is the director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, will serve as the new director of NJ CARES.

“I am honored and ready to lead NJ CARES on its mission to free New Jersey from the chains of addiction and provide relief to those suffering from it,” she said in a statement.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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