On a beautiful Saturday in June at a large Morris County event, a 40 year old college educated businessman was at the lowest point of his life, sitting in the back of the Hope One vehicle. He was strung out, addicted to opiates, had a strained relationship with his children and wanted to end his life. It was at that moment the Hope One Certified Peer Recovery Specialist, someone who has walked in the shoes of addiction, had a conversation with the struggling man. “How can you make your life better?” started Certified Peer Recovery Specialist Alton Robinson. That evening, he entered a ninety (90) day treatment program which he successfully completed. He moved on to a recovery house and is now home, working and “doing great.”
It’s stories like this that continue to make Hope One successful in its first six (6) months travelling around Morris County. To combat the opioid crisis, Hope One launched on April 3, 2017, by Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon in partnership with the Morris County Department of Human Services, the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris, and Morris County Prevention is Key (MCPIK) and their Center for Addiction Recovery Education and Success (CARES). Hope One is a mobile recovery access vehicle offering critical support for persons and families struggling with addiction travelling twice a week around Morris County bringing services to persons in need. A Sheriff’s Officer, licensed clinician and a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist staff the vehicle. Hope One is able to provide clients immediate access to services and treatment facilities, putting them on the road to recovery and wellness. The lifesaving drug Naloxone, also known as Narcan, reverses the effects of an Opioid overdose. Hope One provides Narcan education, training and kits to family members and friends of those suffering from opiate addiction, free of charge. “This program has proven effective by providing a comfortable, stigma free setting where successes have been immediate,” said Morris County Director of Human Services Jennifer Carpinteri.
Sheriff James M. Gannon said, “Every nine minutes a new contact is made on Hope One. We have engaged one thousand, seven hundred and twenty-four (1,724) people in six (6) months. We have travelled to thirty-two (32) towns out of the thirty-nine (39) within Morris County. We bring services to the clients. That’s why we’re different. We’re still trending at 60% above last year in fatal overdoses. There is a strong need and we’re addressing that need.”
The Hope One team is “planting a seed,” says Mr. Robinson. For every person that visits with Hope One, they take away information about recovery, addiction, mental illness and available services. Visitors pass this information along to loved ones, neighbors, friends and co-workers, some of who are struggling with addiction. In turn, these individuals come to Hope One to learn more and possibly connect with services. “Hope One is a meeting point that takes on a sense of community. We will be here to support you,” said Melody Runyon of CARES.
The Hope One Team removes barriers through collaborations and relationships with treatment providers that have access to available beds daily. President and CEO of Daytop NJ Jim Curtin said, “Daytop is completely inspired by the leadership of Sheriff Gannon and the entire Hope One Team. The Sheriff truly understands the power of prevention, treatment, and law enforcement working together. Daytop gladly guarantees an immediate bed for youth and young adults under the age of 21 who are suffering from a substance use disorder. We will also step up our commitment to guarantee immediate admission for both adolescents and adults at our Morris outpatient center.”
Mental Health Clinician Madine Despine of the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris said, “People don’t know the services that are available to them. When you leave Hope One, you can leave with more than you came with.” The mental health clinician on Hope One provides options, schedules appointments and follows up with individuals struggling in the community.
A member of the Hope One Team, Morris County Sheriff’s Corporal Erica Valvano commented, “One day last week on Hope One, we trained nine people on how to administer Narcan and respond to an opiate overdose including a woman whose in-laws are struggling with substance abuse and a grandmother whose grandson is actively using heroin. Our mental health clinician offered services to a woman that approached Hope One for her friend struggling with severe depression. Several concerned parents of teenagers also came to educate themselves on the opioid epidemic. This is an example of a typical day on Hope One.”
A 21 year old male, was “dragged” by his mother to the Hope One mobile outreach vehicle parked on the Morristown Green. He was actively using heroin at that point in his life. He spent about an hour talking with a peer recovery specialist. While it took his third violation of probation to stop using drugs, he still remembers the good advice he took away from that conversation six months ago. “Hope One is a place to direct you to recovery,” he said, now clean, sober, working and “making conscious decisions.”
“Hope One has been a huge asset to law enforcement in the county. Providing help to those who need it, and education & training to those who can help someone else, begins to combat the issue before there needs to be police involvement,” said Mt. Arlington Chief Keith Licata, President of the Morris County Police Chiefs Association.
Sheriff James M. Gannon said, “The mission of Hope and the newly opened Hope Wing in the Morris County Correctional Facility is to prevent drug overdoses and deaths in Morris County. We want to return those addicted to productive members of our society.”
On Tuesday, October 3, Hope One will be celebrating its six month anniversary in Dover at JFK Commons Park located at North Bergen Street and Route 46 from 11AM – 2PM. Visit Hope One and look for the purple ribbon!
For a schedule of upcoming Hope One stops, visit sheriff.morriscountynj.gov or facebook.com/morriscountysheriffsoffice or twitter @Hopeonemorris.
For further information on CARES, contact 973-625-1143 or facebook.com/caresnj.