Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon Urges Stigma-Free Commitment to Curbing Addiction During Relay For Recovery in Morristown

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 James M. Gannon speaks about programs in Morris County to curb opioid abuse during the Sept. 19th Relay for Recovery on the Morristown Green.
Sheriff James M. Gannon speaks about programs in Morris County to curb opioid abuse during the Sept. 19th Relay for Recovery on the Morristown Green.

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.

The Morris County Sheriff's Office Hope One mobile substance use resource and recovery program at Relay for Recovery in Morristown on Sept. 19.
The Morris County Sheriff’s Office Hope One mobile substance use resource and recovery program at Relay for Recovery in Morristown on Sept. 19.

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.

From left, Adam Nardelli, Melissa Maney and Sierra McEniry, managers of the Morris County Sheriff's Office Successful Transition and Re-Entry (STAR) program during Sept. 19 Relay for Recovery on the Morristown Green.
From left, Adam Nardelli, Melissa Maney and Sierra McEniry, managers of the Morris County Sheriff’s Office Successful Transition and Re-Entry (STAR) program during Sept. 19 Relay for Recovery on the Morristown Green.

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.

 

Morris County Sheriff’s Officers and Staff To Dress As Ghouls To Aid Charity That Helps Families In Distress

Members of the Morris County Sheriff’s Office will dress and pose as gruesome characters to help the non-profit organization Halos for Angels Inc. scare up visitors to its annual, month-long “Fright Factor” Haunted House attraction.

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon announced the continuing partnership with the Florham-Park based charity that eases the financial and emotional stress on families confronted with unexpected tragedies such as loss of a loved one, or job, or an illness diagnosis.

Morris County Sheriff's Officers and Staff To Dress As Ghouls To Aid Charity That Helps Families In Distress

Sheriff Gannon will cut the ribbon on opening night of the Haunted House at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, October 4.  The 3,000-square-foot Haunted House – which is available for children’s Fright Factory parties – is in the process of being set up at 186 Ridgedale Avenue in Florham Park.

Officers and civilian staff from the Sheriff’s Office Bureaus of Corrections and Law Enforcement are signing up to don macabre costumes and play ghoulish roles for opening night and the 11 additional weekend days and nights the Haunted House is open during the month of October.

In past years, Correctional Facility Corporal Peter Lohmus, Sergeant Raymond Dykstra, Sergeant Shawn Johnston and Lieutenant Michael Schweizer have most often volunteered to thrill the crowds with their imitations of fiends.

This year, Correctional Facility Sergeant Andrew Bileci – who was honored in June as a volunteer “Angel” for Halos for Angels, Inc. – said he plans an acting role at the Haunted House.

“The Morris County Sheriff’s Office’s partnership with this worthy organization, Halos for Angels, is a great way for Officers to have fun and entertain the community while knowing they are easing the burden on people in crisis,” Sheriff Gannon said.

Karen M. Casolaro, a mother of five, founded the organization in 2010 as a way of thanking the community of Florham Park that was there for her and her family with daily meals after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  The charity’s mission is to directly help families and people in the community who are impacted by a crisis.

Fright Factor opens October 4 with the 6:30 p.m. ribbon-cutting by Sheriff Gannon before the house is open from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. to visitors who dare to roam its rooms for an entrance fee of $10.

On Saturday, Oct. 5, there is a 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Kid-friendly Family Fun Festival followed by the 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. trek through the Haunted House, dubbed “Massive Scare.”

On Sunday, October 6, a Kid-friendly Family Fun Festival is planned from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

For further times of Fright Factor’s weekend events through Sunday, Oct. 27, please visit: www.HalosforAngels.org.

 

 

Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporals Train Other Departments in Critical Project Lifesaver Skills

Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporals Erica Valvano and Laura Siemonsma-Bertelli teamed up to train and certify Morris, Essex and Sussex County Sheriff’s Officers and Livingston Police Officers as electronic search specialists in their respective Project Lifesaver Programs.

Morris County Sheriff's Office Corporal Laura Siemonsma (standing) confers with Sheriff's Office Corporal Erica Valvano during a class they taught to other law enforcement agencies on Project Lifesaver.
Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Laura Siemonsma (standing) confers with Sheriff’s Office Corporal Erica Valvano during a class they taught to other law enforcement agencies on Project Lifesaver.
Morris County Sheriff's Officer Travis Somerville, right, practices with a hand-held receiver as part of his re-certification as an electronic search specialist with the Project Lifesaver Program.
Morris County Sheriff’s Officer Travis Somerville, right, practices with a hand-held receiver as part of his re-certification as an electronic search specialist with the Project Lifesaver Program.

The Morris County Sheriff’s Office oversees one of the largest Project Lifesaver programs in New Jersey, with 135 clients with Alzheimer’s, Autism, Down Syndrome or traumatic brain injury protected through a battery-powered bracelet or anklet if they wander away.

“This simple program is one of the most valuable assets in the Sheriff’s Office for protecting our vulnerable residents and easing anxieties and concerns that caregivers naturally have,” said Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon, who greeted the participants before the session.

Corporals Valvano and Siemonsma-Bertelli on Tuesday, September 10, conducted a day-long training session that certified some Officers for the first time and re-certified others. The program is designed to give caregivers peace of mind and ensure immediate tracking of clients who wander off.

Corporals Siemonsma-Bertelli and Valvano told the class that Sheriff’s Officers also develop a rapport with caregivers and clients through visits to change bracelet and anklet batteries, with assistance from some local police departments. The program provides a terrific community policing opportunity.

The client list also enables the Morris County Sheriff’s Office to alert caregivers about anticipated snowstorms or excessive heat.  Ice for keeping medications cold has been brought to clients during power outages and Corporal Valvano made sure one client had enough wood for the woodstove during a cold snap.

The Morris County Sheriff’s Office training included videos and a power-point presentation on the cognitive conditions of clients in Project Lifesaver programs and cases of how Project Lifesaver might have saved lives of people who wandered off.  Project Lifesaver, now an international program, was started in 1999 by the Chesapeake Sheriff’s Office in Virginia.

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon chats with Livingston Police Officers before the start of a training session on Project Lifesaver taught by Morris County Sheriff's Officers on September 10, 2019.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon chats with Livingston Police Officers before the start of a training session on Project Lifesaver taught by Morris County Sheriff’s Officers on September 10, 2019.

The training also included hands-on instruction on how to operate a hand-held receiver that tracks the signal emitted from a transmitter inside the bracelet or anklet worn by the client. The transmitters have radio frequencies specific to each client.  In Morris County, it typically takes about 20 minutes to locate a missing Project Lifesaver client after notification is received that he or she has wandered off.

Project Lifesaver International has rescued 3,594 individuals since its inception.

Project Lifesaver enrollment is free in Morris County as the program is funded through a Division on Aging grant and donations.  Sheriff’s Officers in the Office’s Community Outreach and Planning Section are all trained in the program, along with all Sheriff’s Office K-9 Section handlers.

The Morris County Sheriff’s Office started its own Project Lifesaver program – which works even when clients are vacationing away from home – in 2003 for adults and in 2005 for juveniles.

For more information on the Morris County Sheriff’s Office Project Lifesaver program click on:   https://sheriff.morriscountynj.gov/community/project_lifesaver/