Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and his Hope One team joined dozens of resource and treatment providers on the Morristown Green Thursday, September 19, for “Relay for Recovery,” an event that united individuals struggling with addiction with the agencies equipped to help them.
Sheriff Gannon, one of the keynote speakers, detailed the multiple programs in his office that directly assist people with opioid addictions. He praised the commitment of others, including Superior Court Judge Michael E. Hubner and staff who work with the Morris and Sussex Drug Court program, and supporters of the stigma-free approach to assisting people with mental health and substance use disorders.
“Stigma-free. That’s where we need to be. Don’t judge people. Don’t judge people by the first five minutes you meet them. You don’t know what their troubles have been,” Sheriff Gannon told the crowd.
Thursday’s Relay for Recovery – a mini-festival of music, poetry, yoga, motivational speeches and recovery stories – was sponsored by the Alumni Association of the Morris County Drug Court, the Community Coalition for Safe & Healthy Morris, the Center for Addiction Recovery, Education & Success (CARES), and LIFE Center Stage.
A team of the Morris County Sheriff’s Office Hope One mobile substance use resource and recovery program was at the event to offer free Narcan training and guidance on drug treatment options and mental health programs. The Hope One team at Relay for Recovery included Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Erica Valvano, Peer Recovery Specialist Carrie Bailey from CARES, and Al Shurdom, coordinator of self-help, advocacy and education for the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris.
Working alongside Hope One was Navigating Hope, a partnership between the Morris County Department of Human Services, its Office of Temporary Assistance, and Family Promise of Morris County. The mobile Navigating Hope assists people in need of social services that include housing assistance, Food Stamps, general assistance, Medicare and veteran’s services.
Also at the event were Melissa Maney and Sierra McEniry, who manage the Successful Transition and Re-Entry (STAR) program started under Sheriff Gannon at the Morris County Correctional Facility. The STAR booth offered “insights from inmates” – written vignettes on their lives and advice for avoiding trouble and incarceration.
The STAR program, a collaboration between the Correctional Facility and the Morris County Department of Human Services, connects inmates approaching release with jobs, housing programs, Medicare, temporary assistance, and other social services and tracks the progress of inmates for one year after their release.
Through STAR, the Sheriff explained, inmates also can arrange for Vivitrol injections every 28 days to block cravings for opioids. The Sheriff also detailed the origins of the Hope One program, the Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative (PAARI), and the Hope Wing at the Correctional Facility, which assists inmates with at least 85 life and coping skills, repairing familial relationships, and managing anger and unhealthy cravings.
The crowd applauded when the Sheriff noted he recognized three graduates of the Hope Wing at Relay for Recovery.
“We know that over 50 percent of the inmate population is there because of their addiction. So what are we doing about it? We’re dealing with it, with stellar curriculum being offered,” the Sheriff said.
He credited Drug Court, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, and other agencies that collectively offer the mosaic of services that address substance use and mental health needs. And, the Sheriff commended the work of CARES and the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris that account for the success of the Hope One program.
“Hope One’s been a magical ride in many ways. We have a great partnership with CARES and the Mental Health Association to bring services to people. For too long we’ve been pulling people to brick and mortar where now we bring services to people. The at-risk population, people without support. We can’t forget about the people without support,” Sheriff Gannon said.