Newark Community Street Team Launches Community-Led Response to the Overdose Crisis in Newark
New Initiative Aims To Reduce Both Overdose Deaths and Arrests Associated With Emergency Calls
Newark, NJ—More than 107,000 people died of an overdose in 2021, the most recorded in U.S. history. New Jersey is no exception and is also seeing skyrocketing overdose deaths. The Newark Community Street Team (NCST) is launching a community-led program that will co-respond to overdose calls in Newark with University Hospital EMS. The Overdose Response Program was developed in an effort to reduce incidents of both fatal and non-fatal overdose in the city as well as reduce police interactions and arrests associated with substance use. As part of this new initiative, the Overdose Response Team outreach workers will be equipped with naloxone to revive individuals when responding to an overdose. They will also provide additional harm reduction supplies and education to community members.
This initiative is being launched at a critical time: Newark has one of the highest rates of overdose in New Jersey, with overdose deaths rising fastest in the Black community. By providing an alternative to law enforcement initiatives, the NCST Overdose Response Team save lives and reduce arrests associated with overdose emergency calls. Other key partners of this program include Vital Strategies, Bridges Outreach, Inc., New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition, elev8, Integrity House, NJ Transit PD @ Newark Penn Station, Newark Community Solutions, Northern NJ MAT Center of Excellence, Stepping Stones to Resiliency Essex County, YMCA of Newark and Vicinity, North Jersey Community Research Initiative (NJCRI) Syringe Exchange Program and the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health.
“I WANT TO SEE YOU LIVE” is the resounding message that the Overdose Response Team is sharing with the City of Newark—reaffirming the worth and value of all residents despite their current or past relationships with substances,” said Solomon Middleton-Williams, deputy director, Newark Community Street Team. “The harm reduction approach that we are bringing to the street is non-judgmental and inclusive of all individuals as we meet people where they are in their substance use, provide life-saving supplies and resources, facilitate education around harm reduction practices, and create pathways to treatment for those seeking it.”
The launch of the Overdose Response Program will help to expand access to lifesaving harm reduction interventions in the City of Newark. Harm reduction is a public health approach to overdose and drug use that centers the autonomy, needs and dignity of people who use drugs. The Overdose Response Team program is supported by funding from Vital Strategies, a global public health organization, working in seven states, including New Jersey, to support an equitable and sustainable reduction in overdose deaths.
“The Newark Community Street Team Overdose Response Program was born out of a call to center the health needs of people who use drugs and to remove law enforcement from the process,” said Dionna King, a technical advisor for the Overdose Prevention Program at Vital Strategies. “This initiative is driven by the singular goal of wanting to see people live. We hope this program becomes a model for New Jersey and shows that to end the overdose crisis we need to invest in harm reduction, evidence-based treatment and social resources that let people live a dignified life.”
“At its core, Harm Reduction reminds every person that their life matters and that they deserve dignity and care, whatever that looks like for them,” said Caitlin O’Neill, Director of Harm Reduction Services at New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition. “I have personally experienced the magic of someone simply reminding you that your life has value and that your drug use doesn’t make you dirty or bad. That reminder makes a huge impact on our spirit, our dignity, and our will to survive. That is one of the many reasons we are thrilled to partner with NCST in this work to prevent overdose through providing evidence-based tools and services to survive the targeted harms of the drug war.”
“Street outreach is the best way to reach people. We can trust the people that tell us where to get what we need, and that has always been one of the best ways of getting day-to-day necessities,” said Marques L. McCoy, manager of CROSSROADS, North Jersey Community Research Initiative. “The street outreach that NCST conducts has been vital to improving safety and well-being for years now, so we are happy to partner with them on this new effort as well. Everyone needs someone, and this new effort will help to ensure that more needs of our community are met.”
About the Newark Community Street Team
The Newark Community Street Team (NCST) is Newark’s community-based violence reduction strategy. NCST draws upon an evidence-based, trauma informed approach to violence reduction. NCST specializes in resolving relationship-based disputes toward a peaceful outcome. We coordinate our efforts with partners, including city agencies, service providers, policy organization, and more in order to improve the quality of life of citizens in the City of Newark. Outreach Workers provide mentoring to youth and young adult ages 14-30 with achieving short-term life goals. Skilled and trained Outreach Workers are the linchpin to success of this initiative. Outreach Workers work individually and as a team to prevent community-based violence, and with this new initiative, preventing overdose deaths. Learn more: www.newarkcommunitystreetteam.org.