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Morris County unveils new HOPE ONE mobile outreach vehicle

MORRISTOWN, NJ (Morris County) – Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon on Monday unveiled a new, custom-designed vehicle for his signature Hope One mobile outreach program that will enable the Hope One partners to continue providing critical services to people with substance use and mental health disorders.

Sheriff Gannon was joined beside the Morristown Green in celebrating the acquisition – funded through a $150,000 bipartisan-supported appropriation in the fiscal 2020 state budget – by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, state Senator and former Governor Richard Codey, state Senator Anthony M. Bucco, Morris County Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp, and other dignitaries and Hope One partners.

“The life-saving work done since April 3, 2017 by all partners in the Morris County Sheriff’s Office Hope One program is a shining and monumental example of how well public-private cooperative alliances can work,” Gannon said.

“We are grateful for the generous funding that will keep our Hope One program on the road well into the future. It’s been a cathartic experience, offering stigma-free aid and support to anyone suffering with a substance use or mental health disorder,” Gannon said.

Attorney General Grewal, who has made fighting the opioid epidemic a priority, expressed gratitude to the Morris County Sheriff’s Office for its commitment to that effort.

“As we battle a global pandemic, we must not forget our state’s most vulnerable residents, including those suffering from addiction or mental health disorders,” Grewal said. “Programs like Hope One ensure that we continue providing essential services to those who need it most.”

Senator Codey, who along with Senator Bucco,a Hope One proponent from its start was instrumental in securing the appropriation, acknowledged the success of Hope One and said: “We need these type of operations.”

“With this new HOPE ONE unit, Morris County increases the reach and effectiveness of its crucial, life-changing substance abuse treatment and prevention program,” Bucco said.

“The addiction and overdose crisis is running rampant in New Jersey and we have seen a horrible spike since the coronavirus pandemic hit more than four months ago. Overdose deaths have skyrocketed by more than 20 percent and the timing couldn’t be better for the expansion of HOPE ONE’s campaign to save lives and rescue families,” Bucco said.

Emblazoned with Morris County’s ‘Stigma Free’ logo, this new rig will be on the road bringing its array of services and treatment options to those who need help coping with substance abuse. Trained and certified peer recovery specialists on board will deliver potentially life-saving support and guidance to anyone struggling with abuse, hopefully leading them to the road to recovery and wellness.

“I commend the county’s HOPE ONE initiative and its goal of saving residents from the depths of addiction and despair,” Bucco said.

On behalf of the Morris County Board of Freeholders, Freeholder Tayfun Selen expressed gratitude for the Hope One initiative.  He was joined at the ceremony by Freeholders Doug Cabana, John Krickus and Steve Shaw.

“The Sheriff’s Hope One program has successfully reached out to many people in our county who are struggling with substance use and addiction, helping those residents and their families to obtain help, and giving them some hope for a brighter future,” Selen said. “They also have connected residents to our mental health community, to help provide them with counseling and programs that can make such a difference in their lives.”

The Morris County Sheriff’s Office Hope One program was the recipient in 2019 of a prestigious public-private cooperation award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).

Sheriff Gannon created the Hope One program within three months of taking office in 2017 by collaborating with Morris County human services leaders, law enforcement officers, treatment experts and people in recovery.

On April 3, 2017, Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Erica Valvano, the Coordinator of Hope One, and a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist and Mental Health advocate embarked on the first of 443 community stops made over the past three years and four months.

The Hope One team made its first stop at the Morristown Green in a former SWAT vehicle that was retrofitted by using $15,000 in drug forfeiture money.

It was stripped of all law enforcement markings, painted purple and white, and emblazoned with the Hope One logo and names of all its partners: Daytop-NJ, the Center for Addiction Recovery, Education & Success (CARES), Prevention Is Key (PIK), the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris, the Morris County Department of Human Services and Family Promise of Morris County.

The new vehicle is a re-creation by First Priority Group of Budd Lake of a plain Ford Transit commercial van into a welcoming, gradient-painted purple and white, all-wheel drive outreach vehicle.

It bears the hallmark Hope One insignia, the names of the partners, and even includes a retractable canopy and a large, weatherproof monitor on its passenger side that can be used to conduct Narcan trainings outdoors as social distancing is practiced.

The interior – with air conditioning and heat that the original vehicle lacked – contains an operator work station, ample shelving and storage for brochures, toiletries, snacks, donated clothing and other items the Hope One team distributes to clients and visitors.

Stopping for five hours at least twice a week in locations that are known for overdoses, homeless populations, hand-to-hand drug transactions, the Hope One team offers free Narcan training and kits, guidance to substance use and mental health services, and even transportation to detox and rehab facilities.

Its impact has been far-reaching, with the city of Newark and Burlington, Monmouth, Cape May and Atlantic counties creating their own Hope One mobile outreach programs modeled after the Morris County Sheriff’s Office venture.

As of August 3, the Hope One team has made 12,269 community contacts and trained 2,584 people in the use of Narcan. The team has assisted 143 people with accessing mental health services and has helped another 177 people with accessing recovery and rehab programs. Hope One works with a network of 24 service providers and keeps a daily inventory of available rehab and detox beds for its consumers.

Other speakers included Prosecutor Knapp, Sister Marlene of the Sisters of Christian Charity Order in Mendham, Chester Township Police Chief Thomas Williver, president of the Morris County Police Chiefs Association, and Madine Despeine-Udoh, Director of Self-Help, Advocacy and Education for the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris.

Melody Runyon, associate director of Hope One partner Prevention is Key (PIK), applauded the significance of the state funding and the work of the Hope One teams.

“Today is another landmark day for the Morris County Sheriff’s Hope One Project.  Prevention Is Key/CARES is happy for the crew to have this new state of the art vehicle from which they can provide assistance to those who are in need whether it be related to mental health or the disease of addiction,” Runyon said.

“Our agency is honored to have been a part of the Hope One project from the early planning days when it was just a noble vision to now with the unveiling of this new vehicle.  We look forward to many more people receiving services through this very special project,” Runyon said.

James Curtin, Chief Executive Officer of Hope One partner Daytop-NJ, also praised the innovative work of the team.

“Sheriff Jim Gannon’s vision of smart, proactive and caring outreach towards our most vulnerable citizens, those suffering from substance use disorders and mental health concerns, has taken root throughout Morris County and beyond,” Curtin said.

“The impact of Hope One as evidenced by providing connections to care, teaching countless how to save lives with Narcan and by being so visible in all local communities, has undoubtedly saved lives. Daytop is a proud partner of Hope One and we look forward to continuing working creatively to help stem the tide that already has begun related to the ongoing pandemic,” Curtin said.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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