At the beginning of February, Saint Michael’s Medical Center in Newark opened the Essex Health and Wellness Recovery Center, providing support to people recovering from alcohol and drug addiction. With a focus on recovery, the Center will provide 24/7 on-call support for emergency needs as well as resources for those looking for alcohol and drug use detoxification and treatment.
Robin Lavorato, the Center’s executive director, stated, “Those suffering from the disease of addiction may have completed treatment, but that is normally not enough. The recovery supports we offer will continue the care needed and hopefully prevent further substance use.”
The Center is primarily focused on post-treatment through the support of recovery guides and peer recovery specialists. Through the Center Lavorato stated, “We will assist with putting lives back together through housing search, obtaining education and employment, healthcare referrals, parenting classes, exercise and diet advice, support groups, workshops and trainings. We will offer sober recreation and more.”
In 2018 Lavorato, a former high school substance-abuse counselor, created the Essex County Opioid Task Force to combat rising opioid deaths in the state. The Task Force held several meetings and awareness walks throughout the county and in June of 2019, changed its name to the Essex Health and Wellness Recovery Center. After it went several months without a permanent location, it later accepted a temporary office space donated by St. Michael’s Medical Center.
St. Michael’s CEO Robert Iannaccone stated, “There is definitely a need in our community for the valuable services being offered by the Center. Since our mission is to meet the healthcare needs of our community, it makes sense for us to help get this Center off the ground.”
In 2019 New Jersey had 3,012 overdose-related deaths, with Essex County’s 389 mortalities claiming the largest share. Heroin, fentanyl and cocaine were among the greatest contributors to overdoses in Essex County.
Alongside the advocacy for opioid awareness, the Center has provided training for police, school staff and others in the administration of naloxone, a medication meant to combat an overdose. Additionally, they worked with Montclair High School students to create a documentary titled “Not My Choice.”
The Center also intends to focus on prevention. They intend to partner with schools, workplaces and other community centers to establish preventive programs.
So far, the Center has been solely funded through private grants and donations. Additionally, the Center’s services will be free of charge.