The Morris County Sheriff’s Office in Morristown opened its door Monday, April 29, as a drop-in center – a beacon of hope – for people who are struggling with drug addiction and need guidance and support in accessing help.
Under the Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative (PAARI), launched April 3 by the Morris County Sheriff’s Office, individuals seeking assistance for substance use dependency can walk into the Morris County Courthouse on Court Street in Morristown between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., and state their request to a Sheriff’s Officer.
In a compassionate and discreet way, individuals will be directed to a PAARI-trained Sheriff’s Officer who will screen them. Based upon the screening, individuals will be connected with peer recovery specialists from Daytop-NJ, who will meet with them to discuss treatment and resource options.
PAARI is a non-incarceration program designed to involve law enforcement officers in assisting people struggling with what can be an overwhelming path to recovery.
“The Morris County Sheriff’s Office is committed to a guardian role of supporting people caught in the destructive trap of addiction,” Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon said.
Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Erica Valvano, the coordinator of the innovative Hope One mobile recovery and resource program, was honored by the Morris County Board of Freeholders for her commitment to creating a “Stigma-Free” environment for people struggling with substance use and mental health disorders.
Corporal Valvano was recognized April 24 by the freeholders as they celebrated the third anniversary of their “Stigma-Free” campaign to reduce public bias and increase support for people who have mental health or substance use disorders.
Corporal Valvano was lauded as “a driving force” behind Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon’s Hope One mobile outreach program that has brought critical services related to drug addiction, mental health and other social service needs into Morris County communities since its launch on April 3, 2017.
The campaign is more than a slogan, translating to increased empathy and services, and the adoption by 35 out of 39 municipalities in Morris County of resolutions to be Stigma-Free, said Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo, board liaison to the Department of Human Services.
Sheriff Gannon, who has dubbed Corporal Valvano “the mother of Hope One,” credited the Corporal for making the program a success on a day-by-day basis. Hope One’s community partners include Family Promise of Morris County, CARES-NJ, Daytop-NJ, and the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris.
“Hope One is her family. She treats it like her family,” the Sheriff said.
Hope One made its most recent stop outside the Community Soup Kitchen in Morristown on April 25. Since April 2017, the Hope One staff has made 6,577 contacts, trained 1,712 people how to administer the overdose-reversal antidote Narcan, referred 97 people to mental health services, and arranged for 104 people to receive rehabilitation or recovery services.
The freeholder resolution declares:
“Morris County Sheriff’s Corporal Erica Valvano is passionate about breaking down the stigma surrounding substance abuse and mental illness so that people feel cared for as they seek treatment and support.
She has been a driving force behind Sheriff Gannon’s Hope One mobile substance use recovery and resource initiative, working closely with persons impacted by the heroin and opioid epidemic, and sharing lessons learned to inspire hope for recovery in a Stigma-Free environment.
Her Stigma-Free philosophy at Hope One is to guide residents and families to substance use and mental health treatment programs, to raise awareness of these difficult issues, and to change how people think and talk about substance use and mental illnesses.
Erica has helped create a Stigma-Free environment in Morris County, where affected individuals are supported in their efforts to achieve wellness and recovery, and where understanding and assistance – not judgment and labeling – are the norms.
For her efforts to inspire public interest and open dialogue about stigma, and foster treatment and recovery, we issue this resolution of thanks to Erica Valvano.”
Dozens of children of sworn officers and civilian employees of the Morris County Sheriff’s Office Bureaus of Law Enforcement and Corrections went to work Thursday with their parents, where they got to climb aboard a helicopter and Bearcat and marvel at a magician and the skills of K-9 Tim.
About 70 children got a spectacular view of some of the ways their parents earn a paycheck during “Bring Your Child To Work Day.” Held at the Morris County Public Safety Training Academy, the event was organized by Corrections Sergeant Andrew Bileci and Bureau of Law Enforcement Lt. Denise Thornton and Corporal Laura Bertelli, both of the Community Outreach and Planning Section.
“The turnout was great and shows the feeling of family and pride within the Sheriff’s Office,” said Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon.
A coup of the event was the arrival of the air ambulance Atlantic Air One, which responds to medical emergencies out of Morristown Medical Center. After landing on the Training Academy lawn – with pilot Steve Masi, flight nurse Casey Schill and paramedic Sean Lynch aboard – the helicopter that can travel at 160 miles per hour was toured by the children.
“Can we get a toy like that?” one child asked his father, who replied, “You already have four. Small ones.”
Officers on the Morris County Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team (SERT) kept careful watch over children as they inspected the interior of an Emergency Services Unit truck used for rescues and extrications. Many detectives from the Crime Scene Investigation Section were at the academy with their children, who got crash courses on how the equipment in CSI vehicles is used to collect evidence and illuminate scenes in the dark or in wooded areas.
“My daughter was so excited she couldn’t even sleep last night,” Crime Scene Investigation Detective Sergeant Laura Flynn said.
K-9 Section Detective Corporal Michael McMahon and Detective Marc Adamsky, with his K-9 Tim, gave demonstrations on the lawn of how the dogs respond to verbal commands and bask in the reward of a ball to chew on.
Another crowd-pleasing event of the day was a performance by magician Joe Fischer, who used children from the audience to demonstrate his prowess at plucking coins out of ears and mouths and creating the illusion that one child was turned into a sea-monster catcher and another child into a rabbit.
At lunchtime, the children feasted on pizza – a treat that the schedules of busy officers don’t always allow for.