Project SAVE Hits 10,000 Referrals for Treatment

Share this:

(Gloucester Township, NJ) – On Thursday, the Board of Commissioners joined staff from the Prosecutor’s Office, the Office of Mental Health and Addiction, local officials and community members to discuss the continued success of Project SAVE, a transformative program that seeks to address the opioid crisis in our communities, and reduce substance use-related recidivism, by shifting the focus of police efforts and practices beyond the initial arrest. This year, Project SAVE expanded further by adding mental health navigators to the program and just last month, the program surpassed 10,000 referrals for treatment.


Commissioner Director, Louis Cappelli Jr., who spearheaded the creation of the Camden County Addiction Awareness Task Force and was a proponent of Project Save talked about the program and its expansion. 

“Project SAVE has become a model for communities across the state and the region because of how effective it has shown to be,” Cappelli said. “We are meeting people where they are and helping them heal instead of just punishing them for low level offenses that were directly related to substance use disorder. Rehabilitation is a key component to fixing the opioid crisis and this program has provided a chance for residents suffering with substance use issues to take control of their lives again while working through the legal system.”


The project focuses on diversion at the municipal court level and is designed to assist those suffering from the disease of addiction to navigate obstacles, barriers, and treatments so they can get access to care they need. Non-violent offenders who enter the municipal court system are given the opportunity to connect with a licensed social services professional who can refer and connect them to appropriate treatment resources regardless of their ability to pay.


“Project SAVE is on the frontlines every day to provide help and hope to those who need it most in our community, regardless of their situation or ability to pay. As the opioid crisis continues to impact our communities, Project SAVE has become a leading model of success for care, treatment, and resources to combat opioid addiction,” Congressman Donald Norcross said. “I applaud Camden County on the success of Project SAVE, and I want to thank everyone who has helped make the program an effective option for people in South Jersey struggling with addiction. I will continue to work in Congress to pass my Modernizing Opioid Treatment Access Act that will expand treatment options for lifesaving medicine and end the opioid crisis.”

The impact of Project SAVE is apparent. County drug arrests decreased by 28% from 2019 to 2022 and since 2019, there has been a 34% decrease of overdoses in participants enrolled in the program.

“The positive outcomes achieved by Project SAVE and its participants are a direct result of the collective efforts of all partners involved,” said Colleen Snow, assistant director for the Camden County Office of Mental Health and Addiction. “When the pilot first launched, we had high hopes for success. However, since the 2019 launch, the innovative strategies developed and executed have been immeasurable and the program has truly exceeded expectations.”


Since 2019, more than 10,000 individuals have been referred to treatment through Project SAVE. Of these referrals, 3,325 were from police officers, 5,931 from court staff and 885 were self-referrals.


“The Camden County Prosecutor’s Office has the honor and privilege of seeing firsthand the benefits of Project SAVE and the lives it has changed,” said Camden County Prosecutor Grace MacAulay. “Its contributions to the safety and security of the citizens of Camden County by combating the scourge of addiction are remarkable; and we look forward to a continued partnership between this life saving program and the law enforcement community.”


Pioneered in Gloucester Township in 2014, a county-wide Project SAVE program was first launched as a one-year pilot in 2018. The program saw such success in its first year, it was extended for another four years.


Brooklawn Borough was one of the first municipalities in the county to adopt the program. Chief Shamus Ellis has been working with the Board of Commissioners on the program and county Addiction Awareness Task Force since 2019.

“Project Save is, and has always been, about providing hope to someone struggling with substance abuse,” Ellis said. “This is a program that has had a positive impact in our community and will continue to provide alternatives to incarceration to non-violent offenders when possible.”   

In 2023, Camden County expanded Project SAVE by incorporating Mental Health Navigators. The MH Navigator is designed to help defendants who are living with a mental illness and facing criminal charges that may stem from the mental health disorder. The navigators are trained in navigating the mental health systems of care, connecting individuals to the most appropriate service, and effective follow-up.

“Project Save was an essential steppingstone in my recovery journey,” said Felicia Buzard, a Project SAVE participant. “It is truly making a difference in the lives of those struggling with substance use and I am so grateful that I was given a chance at recovery through this program.”

Anyone seeking substance use assistance should call 1-844-ReachNJ (732-2465), which provides free professional support for those facing addiction and their loved ones. If you are a Camden County resident suffering from substance abuse disorder, please call the Office of Mental Health and Addiction at (856) 374-6361.



Project SAVE, March 14, 2024