Addiction Services Hotline Helps Residents with Recovery

By Michael Hill

“I was kind of stuck in a rut,” said Nicole Danesi.

When Nicole’s boyfriend David Googled treatment for her struggles with alcohol relapses, he found the NJ Addiction Services Hotline and Nicole called in July.

“I needed to break the cycle of what was going on and do something different,” she said.

A hotline call-taker heard Nicole’s battle with the bottle. With Nicole still on the line, he contacted facilities for an available bed, assessed the wait time, vetted her insurance and gave her a list of treatment centers.

“They were really wonderful in following up with me. They would tell me ‘Call this place tomorrow and then call me back in the afternoon and let me know how it turned out.’ And if that one didn’t work, they’d call me back two days later,” Nicole said. “He was very helpful with keeping me on track with staying motivated because there is a gap time-wise between when you get yourself detoxed and when you can get into a rehabilitation center.”

Nicole — the mother of two teens — started her 28-day program Monday, Aug. 1 at the Good News Home for Women in Hunterdon County.

Her hope: “Through meeting these other women and sharing their experiences that I’m able to help them and they’re able to help me to heal this soul sickness that we share.”

The state supplies the 24-hour hotline with more than $3 million a year. Forty-plus call takers at Rutgers Behavioral Health Center are trained to assess need, urgency and emergency and then match callers with a database of options.

Since its inception in July 2015, the hotline says it has received some 60,000 phone calls referring families and users to treatment and help and offering them hope.

“We have a serious epidemic in this state. It’s a problem and it’s not slowing down at all. We’re taking all the measures we can to help all those in need. It’s not disheartening and I’ll tell you why. Because one of the things when we first started this, the thing that we knew we were going to see is that we were going to be an instrument to be able to identify how serious the problem was,” said Manuel Guantez, vice president of outpatient addiction services at Rutgers University Behavioral Health Center.

Dr. Guantez says the effort needs more access to care — beds, treatment facilities and money. He says a recent rate change in Medicaid should make giving care more affordable for providers.

“It’s a field that you have to have the tenacity and faith that things will get better eventually,” he said.

Nicole hopes her “eventually” is happening now in rehab so she can get back on course of pursuing degrees in farming and economics.

“My hope is to get my life started again or maybe for the first time,” she said.

For more stories that are part of the initiative Healthy NJ: New Jersey’s Drug Addiction Crisis, click here.