Morris County Sheriff’s Office Hope One mobile substance abuse recovery program attracts Bergen County’s attention

Interest in the Morris County Sheriff’s Office’s Hope One mobile substance abuse recovery vehicle is intensifying, with two undersheriffs from the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office seeking guidance from Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon on how to replicate the program in their 70-town county.

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and colleagues
From left, Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon, Bergen County Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff David Borzotta, Bergen County Executive Undersheriff Vincent Quatrone, and Morris County Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff Mark Spitzer.

Sheriff Gannon, who launched Hope One on April 3, 2017, met Wednesday with Bergen County Sheriff’s Office Executive Undersheriff Vincent Quatrone and Undersheriff David Borzotta, who work under the leadership of Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton.

“That’s awesome,” Undersheriff Borzotta said of the 6,200 contacts Hope One’s staff has made with individuals in the past 23 months during its twice-weekly stops in Morris County communities known to be populated by at-risk people in danger of dying by heroin and opioid overdoses.

Passaic County officials have expressed interest in Hope One. The city of Newark in December launched Hope One-Newark. Officials from the Burlington County Sheriff and Prosecutor’s Offices visited Hope One in January, while Hope One duplicates have been started in the last year by the Cape May Prosecutor’s Office, and the Monmouth and Atlantic County Sheriff’s Offices.

“This is like a roving helping hand,” Undersheriff Borzotta said. “We’re wondering what is going to make us feel like we’re gaining ground and I think this is it.”

Morris County Sheriff's Office Hope One vehicle
The Morris County Sheriff’s Office’s Hope One mobile substance abuse recovery and resource vehicle at a fundraising event in Wayne, NJ

“People are supportive of the program. The reality is, we’ve had nothing but great support,” Sheriff Gannon said.

Sheriff Gannon and the Bergen County undersheriffs agreed the crisis is killing people of all ages, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds. Sheriff Gannon advised them that he brainstormed with substance abuse and mental health experts as soon as he took office in January 2017, and by April 2017 had repurposed a sidelined SWAT vehicle using $15,000 in drug forfeiture money.

The Hope One vehicle was painted white and purple – a color associated with recovery – and stripped of any law enforcement symbols. Staffed by Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Erica Valvano, a certified peer recovery specialist from Morris County CARES and a mental health professional from the Essex and Morris County Mental Health Association, Hope One spends five hours twice a week parked in locations in Morris County, offering free Narcan training, recovery and resource information to anyone who asks.

Hope One staff have trained more than 1,600 people how to administer Narcan, the nasal spray that reverses an opioid overdose. People have been immediately transported to detox facilities from Hope One, and assisted in entering in-patient facilities within a few days of speaking to Hope One staff.