Burlington County is expanding its addiction services with the launch of a second Recovery Center to deliver critical support for those in recovery from substance abuse.
The new Community Peer Recovery Center opened Wednesday inside the City Hall building at 525 High Street in Burlington City.
Like the first Burlington County Recovery Center – which opened in the fall of 2020 in the Burlington County Human Services Building in Westampton – the new center provides space where those in recovery can receive peer support and information about treatment programs, support services and community resources.
“The addiction epidemic, like COVID-19, has claimed the lives of hundreds of Burlington County residents and had devastating impacts on local families and communities. Every town has been impacted,” said Burlington County Commissioner Felicia Hopson, the Board’s liaison to the Department of Human Services and Health Department. “In Burlington County, we’ve made it our mission to save lives and ensure those who need support and resources can access it. We expect this new Community Peer Recovery Center will help us expand our reach and support more residents who need it.”
“Every family is touched by mental health and behavioral health so partnering with the County to have these recovery support services here in Burlington City is a huge plus,” added Burlington City Mayor Barry Conaway. “We look forward to working with the County and the other partners to assist those facing substance use disorder find their way to a healthy and fulfilling future.”
A second location
Both centers are being operated by the nonprofit group, Prevention is Key, and volunteers from the recovery community. Both offer welcoming and safe environments for individuals from all recovery backgrounds, and both provide space for groups like Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous to meet and for residents in recovery to gather and receive training or engage in social and recreational activities. Those interactions are often critical to individuals recovering from substance use disorders.
“We are happy to serve and support the community in Burlington County and to collaborate here in Burlington City,” said Christina Fagan, project coordinator with Prevention is Key.
The Westampton Recovery Center has aided more than 500 individuals and hosted or organized more than 40 events since it opened during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the activities were visits to sober living homes, yoga and painting classes, rock climbing trips and a summer BBQ.
The new Burlington City location is accessible via bus and the River Line light-rail system and its proximity within City Hall is expected to facilitate partnerships with Burlington City Police Department services, including the Straight to Treatment Program, and social services offered by the Volunteers of America.
Created by the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office, the Straight to Treatment Program allows anyone to enter a participating police station and get assessed and referred to a treatment program. Participating police also assist individuals seeking help clear municipal warrants and connect with peer recovery coaches.
Burlington City police joined the Straight to Treatment program in May 2019. Since then, the department has helped more than 150 people enter treatment.
Volunteers of America Delaware Valley also has staff operating at the Burlington City Police Department to assist residents with social service needs who city officers come in contact with during patrols and emergency calls.
“As a police department, we’re always assessing what it means to ‘serve’ and we’ve had a lot of success with Straight to Treatment and Volunteers of America,” said Burlington City Police Chief John Fine. “Having the Community Peer Recovery Center here as a partner will further enhance that service and help more families and individuals see a better tomorrow.”
Responding to the addition crisis
Funding for the new Recovery Center’s staff and programming is being provided from a State Opioid Response grant awarded to Burlington County by the New Jersey Department of Human Services in the county in response to the continuing opioid epidemic.
A total of 162 people died from suspected drug overdoses in Burlington County last year, up from 149 in 2020, according to data from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.
The new Recovery Center is the latest of several actions taken by the County in response to the addiction crisis, including the passage of a resolution designating all of Burlington County to be stigma-free. By eliminating stigma surrounding addiction and all mental illnesses, the Commissioners hope to encourage more people to seek treatment and recovery support.
At least 17 municipal governments have now passed similar resolutions expressing support for the County’s stigma-free initiative, including Bordentown City, Bordentown Township, Burlington City, Burlington Township, Chesterfield, Cinnaminson, Delran, Evesham, Florence, Lumberton, Moorestown, Mount Holly, Mount Laurel, Palmyra, Pemberton Township, Shamong, and Westampton. Rowan College at Burlington County’s Board of Trustees and school boards in 20 Burlington County school districts have also approved stigma-free designations.
Earlier this year the County also created a Regional Advisory Council to develop recommendations for disbursement of some $13.6 million in opioid settlement funds Burlington County is expected to receive over the next 18 years.
“Burlington County is leading the charge to eliminate stigma and provide people access to treatment and other services to help them beat addiction and other mental health conditions because it is the right thing to do for our residents and our communities,” said Hopson. “Addiction is a disease, not a morale failing, and it is our responsibility to do everything in our power to make help available. This Community Peer Recovery Center will save lives and promote healing, so we’re thrilled to work with Burlington City, Prevention is Key and Volunteers of America to make this resource available.”
Evesham Deputy Mayor Heather Cooper, who is a member of Burlington County Local Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcoholism, applauded the County’s actions to expand addiction services and end the stigma surrounding the disorder.
“The opioid epidemic continues to devastate families and communities across the nation. Ending it requires the cooperation and commitment of all levels of government,” Cooper said. “I’m proud that Burlington County continues to demonstrate compassion and resolve to help those who need it the most.”