Burlington County has cut the ribbon on a new recovery center to help those struggling with substance abuse.
The center is in the county’s Human Services Building in Westampton and will serve as a one-stop shop where residents can obtain peer support, information about treatment programs, recovery support services and community resources.
Burlington County Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson said the center will serve as a lifeline for those dealing with addiction and provide more than information about treatment and recovery programs.
She said the center will share information on “all other programs that our state and our county has to offer, from job training to housing assistance to nutrition programs and so many other resources.”
It will also provide space for Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
The Recovery Center carries the same one-stop principle as the county’s Housing Hub, that opened in December 2019, which helps residents experiencing homelessness.
“We need to streamline our services so our community members can receive them and become productive community members,” Hopson said. “At the end of the day, that’s what we want.”
Joining Hopson at Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting was County Administrator Eve Cullinan, Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina and representatives of Prevention Is Key, a North Jersey-based nonprofit that has partnered with the county to staff the center.
The opening of the Burlington County Recovery Center comes as the county has seen a rise in suspected overdose deaths. According to the state Attorney General’s Office, 164 people in the county died from overdoses in 2019, up from 161 in 2018 and 149 in 2017. To date, there have been 91 suspected overdose deaths in the county in 2020.
Hopson said the death toll would be much higher this year had first responders not intervened and administered naloxone more than 470 times.
“These are our friends, our neighbors and our loved ones,” she added, “they are dying from a disease, not a moral failing.”
The center will be staffed by peer recovery specialists. Emily Monks will serve as senior peer coordinator for the center.
Monks, who is also in recovery, shared her story of how she became addicted. At age 11, she experimented with drugs and alcohol while attending school in Ireland. That experimentation continued after she returned stateside. She enlisted in the Marines in 2009 when her parents issued an ultimatum. During her four years of duty, she developed a severe alcohol problem.
“[It was] to the point where I was getting bottles of vodka mailed to me in Pringles cans overseas because I couldn’t keep going without it,” Monks said.
She later developed an addiction to pain medication she was taking for injuries sustained in a drunk driving accident she was involved with as a passenger. That evolved into a heroin addiction.
“I used heroin for about a year and a half before I found recovery,” she said, “it took me to the deepest, darkest places I could never have imagined.”
Monks marked six years of recovery in July. As a recent graduate from New York University with a master’s degree in social work, she said she saw the clinical side of recovery as well as the peer side, and chose to stay with the latter.
“There’s no hierarchy in peer work; we’re equals,” she said. “We can speak to each other on a level that a social worker can’t. I can be honest; I can talk about the despair and the pain and we can relate to each other to bring each other up.”
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