When Fair Lawn police arrested “Elizabeth” on drug charges in November 2018, she thought it meant another skipped court date, more unpaid fines and another warrant to haunt her.
The 27-year old from Oakland, who was granted an alias for this story to preserve her anonymity, had grown used to trouble. Addicted to opioids since age 17, her life over the following decade became a turnstile of arrests, rehab stays and stints on the street.
“At that point I was numb to it,” she said.
But this time, authorities gave her a different option: She could enroll in a pilot program that offered to drop the charges as long as she stuck with a treatment plan designed to fight her addiction.
Dubbed the “Fair Lawn Initiative,” the year-old program is the first of its kind in New Jersey, according to the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office. Open to those arrested in the borough on low-level municipal charges, it connects offenders with a patient navigator and recovery specialist who walk them through how to get clean and stay there.