Sussex County anti-drug program celebrates its first anniversary

Coordinated effort to confront local part of national epidemic

Make text smaller Make text larger


  • C.L.E.A.R. Executive Director Becky Carlson

  • Sussex County Prosecutor Francis Koch

  • Newton Police Chief Michael Richards addresses the audience at C.L.E.A.R's anniversary press conference

  • The C.L.E.A.R. team, from left: Prosecutor Koch, Chief Richards, recovery coaches Chris Ogar, Kelly LaBar, Regina Hannapple, Chris Ennis and., Katie Calvacca, and ED Becky Carlson

By Liam Donovan

— Sussex County’s C.L.E.A.R. (Community, Law Enforcement, Addiction, Recovery) program celebrated its first anniversary at a press conference in Newton Municipal Building on Wednesday, March 29.

“Everyone benefits when we help those who are suffering from addiction,” said Newton Police Chief Michael Richards, who has helped spearhead the initiative in the county.

“C.L.E.A.R. represents a rebirth for our community,” Sussex County Prosecutor Francis Koch said. “This is possible because it is our entire community involved… This is a changing of the dialogue, a changing of perception for those suffering from addiction, who can now seek assistance without fear of arrest or prosecution.”

Koch expressed the program’s intention to “catch people upstream” and allow people to seek out help with drug addiction before it puts their lives in danger or in trouble with the law.

“We learned long ago we are not going to be able to arrest our way out of this process,” Koch said. “…Isn’t it far better to stop that early on?”

“A vast majority of petty crimes in the newspapers are related to drug issues and addictions,” he said.

Sussex County has seen close to a 200 percent increase in deaths from drug overdoses since 2013. In 2013, 13 people died from overdoses of heroin, prescription drugs and other drugs in Sussex County. That number has risen every year, to 36 deaths in 2016.

This increased death toll is in spite of police forces now being equipped with Narcan, a drug that can reverse the effects of opiates like heroin, prevent overdoses and save lives.

“Every single department has Narcan in police cars…. Sussex County is the only county in New Jersey with 100 percent participation,” Koch said.

While deaths by drug overdose have increased each year, so have the amount of people saved from overdoes death through Narcan. According to C.L.E.A.R., while 36 died in the county in 2016, 52 people were rescued through the administering of Narcan. In 2015, there were 25 drug deaths countywide and 44 rescues via Narcan.

Koch said that, as county prosecutor, the drug users he speaks with don’t often want to see him, but many say that their “one regret is that [their] recovery did not start earlier.”

“This drive is not just for themselves, but for their families and their community,” he said.

“Recovery is real, and Sussex County is leading the way,” C.L.E.A.R. Executive Director Becky Carlson said. “Every single time C.L.E.A.R. was in the paper, people called.”

C.L.E.A.R. officials stress the need for recovery coaches to help the addicted return to a more normal life. The program pairs people suffering from addiction with coaches who support them in their efforts at recovery. Recovery coaches help initiate steps toward recovery and offer support to maintain long-term recovery.

Closing the ceremony, C.L.E.A.R. recovery coaches were recognized for their work.

“Recovery coaches are truly what sets us apart,” Chief Richards said.

C.L.E.A.R.’s phone number is 1-844-SC-CLEAR (or 1-844-722-5327). Their

Make text smaller Make text larger


Pool Rules


One Lucky Leprechaun
Our Cutest Leprechaun Contest has come to a close. Over the past few weeks, dozens of families submitted photos of their little ones: some were decked out in shamrocks and kilts,...
Read more »

Aging the beer deep in the mountain
By Laurie Gordon
— If you live in Sparta, and most likely, if you live anywhere in Sussex County, you know about a great place...

Read more »

Opposition mounts against proposed Hopatcong police gun range
— Last Wednesday night’s Hopatcong Town Council meeting was filled to standing room capacity with...

Read more »

Students, supporters to ‘march for their lives’ this Saturday
Students, families and supporters will take to the streets of Washington, DC, as well as communities across...

Read more »


Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Community Newspapers


Local News
Black Bear Fitness celebrates 20 years
  • Mar 19, 2018
The Fabulous Thunderbirds fly into Stanhope
  • Mar 19, 2018
Local News
College students visit senior citizens
  • Mar 19, 2018
Local News
County celebrates all things Irish
  • Mar 20, 2018


Find more about Weather in Sparta, NJ