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Township Council Under Fire For Genesis Counseling Appointment

Genesis will provide counseling to lower level drug offenders who are not currently offered entry into a treatment program. Residents questioned the selection process.

Township Council Under Fire For Genesis Counseling Appointment
By Aris Theofanopoulos

Controversy has surfaced regarding the township’s new counseling organization, Genesis Counseling Centers.

Genesis will provide counseling to lower level drug offenders who are not currently offered entry into a treatment program.

At Monday night’s council meeting, numerous members of the community raised questions to Council Vice President Orlando Mercado and members of council regarding how Genesis earned that position.

Genesis was named the official organization after being introduced as an addendum to the agenda during the May 28th council meeting.

“The public could not view the bid. There were no copies at the meeting, and it only took 50 seconds for the bid to pass,” stated citizen Robert Kolakowski.

Council originally introduced the idea of a counselor for the township during the May 5th workshop.

At that time, Council agreed to pay this position through the general fund.

Mercado also stated at this time that the position was to be handled by an individual.

Another point that raised eyebrows from the public: only Genesis applied for the job.

“The role was only available on the council's unfriendly website. It was a tainted procedure” according to Kolakowski.

Council defended its decision.

“It does create pause, but I did not know anything about Genesis before the vote, I do not think anyone here had,” explained Councilman Dan Hutchinson.

The rest of Council concurred.

“I do know someone else that was interested in the position, but the position is part-time, and that would interfere with other jobs. That is why it was limited,” reasoned Councilwoman Tracey Trotto.

When asked how would the public would know if the program will be successful, Police Chief Harry Earle replied, “We are not that far along.”

Earle explained Genesis would be following a three-step program in municipal court.

“Phase one is that the advocate would be in court and the domestic victim would be guided by the advocate, not mandated to do anything,” Earle said. “Phase two would be the judge saying the victim shall be under counseling, followed by recovery.”

Earle elaborated on his initiative known as Project SAVE (Substance Abuse Victimization Effort) earlier this week.

Though some citizens believe Genesis took an underhanded approach to gain this title, they agree that the services they will provide are necessary and much appreciated.

Genesis Counseling is a nonprofit organization that offers therapeutic support, care and education to aid people battling mental illness or attempting to overcome drug addiction.

The program begins as the county battles a growing drug epidemic.

A total of 15 heroin overdoses were reported in Camden County over a two-hour period in March.

Since then, the county hosted a heroin summit in Collingswood on May 19.

The county also began using billboards to spread awareness about the epidemic.

The Camden County Freeholder Board has created a heroin awareness task force, with members to be named next month.

Additionally, a program that was being used in the Jersey Shore that allows law enforcement officials to carry the heroin antidote Narcan has been approved for statewide use.








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