Interest from NJ counties in Morris County Sheriff’s Hope One mobile opioid recovery program rising

Representatives of the Burlington County Sheriff’s and Prosecutor’s Offices want to replicate Hope One, an innovative mobile substance abuse recovery vehicle launched in April 2017 by Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon to help fight opioid and heroin addiction.

Hope One, which in the past 21 months has logged more than 6,000 contacts with individuals struggling with addiction or their families and friends, was parked Monday outside the Netcong Train Station, where Sheriff Gannon met with four law enforcement officials from Burlington County.

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and officials by the Hope One mobile recovery vehicle in Netcong.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon, seventh from left, with staff of Hope One and Burlington County law enforcement officials on Jan. 28, 2019 in Netcong.

Hope One already was replicated by the Newark Police Department in December and earlier by the Cape May Prosecutor’s Office and Monmouth and Atlantic County Sheriff’s Offices.

Burlington County Sheriff’s Office Chief Mike Ditzel said he heard Sheriff Gannon speak about Hope One at a New Jersey State Chiefs of Police Association meeting last fall, admired the concept, and believes Burlington County can be successful with the same proactive approach.

“This could potentially be a great addition to other programs we have, including youth programs to help stop addiction before it starts,” said Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office Chief of Investigations Darren Anderson.

“We bring services to the client, out in the field,” Sheriff Gannon told the Burlington County officials. “It’s successful because of relationships we have with the service providers.”

Sheriff Gannon noted that 3,118 people statewide died of overdoses in 2018, a 15 percent increase over 2017 but Morris County saw a 1 percent decrease in overdoses in 2018 from the previous year. There were 84 deaths attributed to overdoses in 2018 in Morris County.

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon with Burlington County officials at Hope One in Netcong on Jan. 28, 2019.
Burlington County Sheriff’s Office Chief Mike Ditzel, Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office Chief of Investigations Darren Anderson at Hope One stop in Netcong on Jan. 28, 2019.

The sheriff related to the Burlington officials how a father approached the Hope One vehicle on Jan. 7 with a story of concern that his son, just home from a rehabilitation center, would relapse. The father was trained by Hope One staff to administer Narcan, a nasal spray that reverses the effects of opioids, and given a canister to bring home. He found his son unconscious from an overdose in their home the same day and was able to revive him with Narcan, the sheriff said.

There’s a cascading impact on families, the children, parents, spouses and siblings of addicts, Gannon said.

Since April 3, 2017, when Hope One made its debut on The Green in Morristown, the vehicle has made about 270 stops in locations throughout Morris County that statistics show are populated by at-risk people and where drug overdoses are occurring. Sheriff Gannon said 200 people who boarded Hope One in search of services were transported to treatment for mental health issues or to detox centers and treatment facilities for their substance abuse addictions.

Hope One was staffed during the visit by Burlington County officials by Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Erica Valvano in plainclothes; Kelly LaBar, a peer recovery specialist for Morris County CARES; Madine Despeine, director of Self Help, Advocacy and Education for the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris; and Ashley Reed, a care navigator for Family Promise of Morris County.

In nonjudgmental style, the staff offer literature, resources, Narcan training, coffee, water, hand warmers and snacks to visitors to Hope One, and are equipped to immediately help individuals find treatment for their addictions.

The Hope One vehicle used to be a Sheriff’s Office SWAT truck that was stripped of law enforcement emblems and painted white and purple, the color symbolizing recovery. Hope One parks Mondays and Thursdays for about five hours in selected locations where at-risk people are known to congregate.

Two Morris County Sheriff’s Officers Being Deployed Overseas On Missions With the U.S. Army National Guard

Two Morris County Sheriff’s Officers who serve the country through the U.S. Army National Guard are being deployed overseas for a year.

Morris County Sheriff's Officer Christopher Murarik in Army National Guard attire, with his parents
Morris County Sheriff’s Officer Christopher Murarik (center, with his parents), is being deployed overseas with the U.S. Army National Guard.

Sheriff’s Office Detective Thomas Reilly, a National Guardsman since 1996, is being deployed for a second time while Detective Christopher Murarik, a National Guardsman since 2010, faces his first deployment.

Detective Reilly will be overseas on a security mission with Bravo Company, 104th Engineer Battalion. Detective Murarik is being deployed overseas with the 114th Infantry Battalion.

“While Tom and Chris are overseas, in brave service to our nation, we will do our very best to be there for their families here, stateside. I remain grateful that they continue to make such an incredible sacrifice for all of us,” Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon said.

“I’m excited. I’ll miss my family, friends and job but I joined the military to give back to my country and now’s my chance,” Detective Murarik said.

Morris County Sheriff's Officer Thomas Reilly
Morris County Sheriff’s Officer Thomas Reilly is being deployed overseas with the U.S. Army National Guard.

Detective Reilly said he also joined the Army National Guard to serve his country and is happy, as a father of three children, that his year overseas won’t involve missing major milestones in their lives.

“It will be rough being away but I’ll be able to FaceTime and message with them,” Reilly said.

“If I wasn’t in the National Guard, chances are I’d never on my own travel” (to countries to which he is deployed), he said.

Detective Reilly previously was deployed for one year – between June 2008 and June 2009 – to Baghdad, Iraq, with the 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

A Morris County Sheriff’s Officer for 16 years, Reilly has served in most of the office’s sections, including courthouse protective services, the K-9 and Bomb Sections, and warrants, his most recent duty. He previously was employed by the State Department of Corrections as an officer at Trenton State Prison.

Detective Murarik, who also worked for the state Department of Corrections for more than two years before joining the Morris County Sheriff’s Office Bureau of Law Enforcement in the summer of 2017, spent the last year in the Sheriff’s Office’s K-9 Section as a handler for K-9 Oliver.

Both detectives will undergo pre-mobilization training in February before being flown to their respective missions overseas.


Morris County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Cinders and Detective John Granato certified as an accelerant detection team

Morris County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Cinders and K-9 Section Detective John Granato have completed 3 months of training as a team to obtain their accelerant detection certification.

The aptly-named Cinders, an 8-year-old female Belgian Malinois, has been with the K-9 Section since 2013 but was reassigned in 2018 to Detective Granato, who also handles patrol and narcotics detection duties with K-9 Spike.

Morris County Sheriff's Office Detective John Granato with K-9 Cinders, a Belgian Malinois.
Morris County Sheriff’s Office Detective John Granato and K-9 Cinders are certified as an accelerant detection team to assist on arson investigations.

The pairing of Detective Granato and K-9 Cinders required retraining and certification in accelerant detection, which was accomplished at the Morris County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Academy under the instruction of Supervising K-9 Trainer Detective Sergeant Aaron Tomasini and K-9 Section Detective Corporal Michael McMahon.

“Our newly retrained K-9 Cinders is an essential deployable resource that is a valuable part of the tool box of the Morris County Public Safety Community. I am so very proud of Detective Granato, Cinders and the entire K-9 Section, “ said Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon.

“The keen olfactory senses of this animal partner allows us to detect the presence of accelerant substances that would not otherwise be discovered, “ Sheriff Gannon said.

Cinders is a single-purpose K-9 and the only dog in the K-9 Section certified in detecting accelerants.

Morris County Sheriff's Office K-9 Cinders with handler Detective John Granato.
Morris County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Cinders tugs on a ball that is her reward for detecting accelerants. With Cinders is her handler, Detective John Granato.

Detective Granato said his first week with K-9 Cinders was spent familiarizing themselves with each other to develop the necessary bond between dog and handler. The 42-pound Cinders previously was certified in accelerant detection with her former handler so her retraining in detecting 9 accelerants progressed quickly, Granato said.

K-9 Cinders responds to fire scenes throughout Morris County when arson is suspected. As part of her training, she detected accelerants buried several feet in the ground and encased in PVC piping, steel and concrete.

K-9 Cinders is called an “aggressive indicator,” meaning she digs and scratches to reach the accelerant her nose – with 220 million olfactory receptors – led her to. She can detect even the tiniest drop of accelerant, down to half a microliter in size, Detective Granato said.

Her reward for her detective work? A rubber ball on a string.

“She works for the reward and hers is the ball,” Detective Granato said.