Camden County drug diversion program gets new lease on life

Project SAVE
Photo credit Dan Keashen, Camden County
CAMDEN, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — A Camden County program that gives drug addicts a chance to get clean instead of going to jail has worked so well, the county wants to keep it going. 

The county took up Project SAVE, short for Substance Abuse Visionary Effort, after seeing Gloucester Township put it in use. Nonviolent suspects are met in municipal court by a counselor that offers them assistance on the spot. In a year-long pilot program, almost 500 people have taken advantage of that option.

“We’ve had a lot of success,” said Camden County Freeholder Director Lou Cappelli. “We are saving lives. We are helping to keep families together. So we want to make this investment for another three years.”

That investment amounts to about $1 million over that time. 

A similar diversion program is in place in parts of Burlington County, but a person has to go to the police and ask for help. This one offers the assistance up front, in court. 

Cappelli tipped his hat to Gloucester Township Mayor David Mayer and recently retired police chief Harry Earle for coming up with the idea.

“They put this program in place in their municipality once they recognized the need for it,” Cappelli added, “and all we’ve done is taken it countywide. So they deserve all the credit in the world.”

Today, 34 of the 37 municipalities in Camden County are taking part.

Plans are to expand the program soon to help connect those in treatment with local employers to assist them on the road to recovery.