Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon Participates In National Discussion on Opioid-Related Deaths and Strategies For Curbing Overdoses During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon highlighted his Hope One mobile substance abuse and mental health outreach program and strategies for curbing overdoses during the COVID-19 pandemic in a virtual conference call with the Director of the National Drug Control Policy and other subject experts.

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon participated in a discussion via Zoom with national drug control policy experts. On the screen is Allie Hunter McDade, executive director of PAARI USA.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon participated in a discussion via Zoom with national drug control policy experts. On the screen is Allie Hunter McDade, executive director of PAARI USA.

Sheriff Gannon was invited to participate in the May 27th session via Zoom by Allie Hunter McDade, United States Executive Director of the Police Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative (PAARI).

Please click on the two links to see Sheriff Gannon fielding questions from National Drug Control Policy Director James W. “Jim” Carroll and PAARI Executive Director McDade about Hope One and his Agency’s response to the need for addiction recovery services despite the challenges of social distancing mandates.

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After suspending its twice-weekly trips into communities with at-risk populations, homeless encampments and soup kitchens in mid-March because of COVID-19, the Hope One team is slated to resume community stops on June 1.

On that day and practicing healthy safeguards, the team of Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporal and Hope One Coordinator Erica Valvano, a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist from CARES, and a mental health Clinician from the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris will be at the Morristown Green from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

While Hope One could not follow its customary routine over the past two months, the team responded to telephone calls for help with addiction and mental health disorders, safely delivered free Narcan upon request, and trained at least 158 people via Zoom sessions on how to administer Naloxone (Narcan) to reverse overdoses.

In addition to widely circulating contact numbers, Hope One has been working in tandem with the Table of Hope mobile food pantry. As Table of Hope volunteers have distributed  groceries in Morristown, Dover and Parsippany, the Hope One team has passed out brochures detailing Hope One’s services.

Morris County Sheriff's Office HOPE ONE team, from left: Al Shurdom of the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris, Caroline Bailey, Certified Peer Recovery Specialist from CARES, Morris County Sheriff's Office Corporal Erica Valvano, Hope One Coordinator.
Morris County Sheriff’s Office HOPE ONE team, from left: Al Shurdom of the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris, Caroline Bailey, Certified Peer Recovery Specialist from CARES, Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Erica Valvano, Hope One Coordinator.

Sheriff Gannon stated during the May 27th session that Morris County is following the state and national trend of increased fatal overdoses. Suspected overdose deaths in Morris County are up by 50 percent in the first five months of 2020 compared to the same five-month time frame in 2019.

The pandemic, Sheriff Gannon said, has contributed to the uptick. People struggling with substance use disorders may lack a strong support system or are separated from supporters due to social distancing. They have less interaction with police in the community, may feel hopelessness, and have the perception that services are not available.

“The COVID-19 pandemic underscores how critical it is to maintain resources and outreach to people struggling with substance abuse and feeling isolated from positive influences and support in their lives,” Sheriff Gannon said.

He described for Director Carroll the origins of Hope One, its   launch on April 3, 2017, in response to overwhelming opioid abuse, and statistics that prove its productivity and influence. Hope One has made at least 11,473 contacts with individuals since its launch, trained 2,413 on Narcan use, assisted 169 people into recovery and rehabilitation programs, and another 138 people with mental health services.

“We saw a need to do something different about it,” Sheriff Gannon said.

Sheriff Gannon and Morris County’s Hope One team have assisted the city of Newark, Burlington, Cape May, Atlantic and Monmouth counties with starting their own mobile outreach programs. The Hope One team also has received interest and inquiries from the city of Boston, Yonkers, New York, Somerset and Hudson counties.

On Hope One’s two-year anniversary, the Morris County Sheriff’s Office launched PAARI, becoming a walk-in site for people to voluntarily and safely seek help with a substance abuse disorder. In the last year, 14 municipal police departments in Morris County have participated in training to also be designated PAARI sites.

 

 

Wife and Daughters of Morris County Corrections Officer Thank the Agency For Its COVID-19 Courageous Response With Gift of Homemade Empanadas

The wife and daughters of a Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Officer wanted to use their hands and hearts to create the perfect gift that would express their appreciation for the fortitude and courage shown by Correctional Facility Officers and Staff during the COVID-19 healthcare crisis.

In front row, from left, Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon, Kailiee Otaegui, Corrections Officer Anthony Otaegui, Khloe Otaegui, Krystal Otaegui, and Stephanie Otaegui, the Officer's wife.
In front row, from left, Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon, Kailiee Otaegui, Corrections Officer Anthony Otaegui, Khloe Otaegui, Krystal Otaegui, and Stephanie Otaegui, the Officer’s wife.

They decided on a gift that would please their appetites.

The morning of May 21, Stephanie Otaegui and her husband, Morris County Corrections Officer Anthony Otaegui and their three daughters, Krystal, Kayliee and Khloe, delivered to the Morris County Correctional Facility more than 130 handmade, fried empanadas.

The delectable chicken and beef treats, with hot sauce home-prepared from tomatoes and seasonings, were packaged in individual containers on which bright messages – Smile, You’re appreciated – were written.

The Otaegui family also presented Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon, Correctional Facility Undersheriff Alan J. Robinson, Warden Christopher Klein and Officers with three poster-sized signs that will be hung in the Correctional Facility lobby.

“We wanted to make something from our hearts and our hands,” said Mrs. Otaegui, a social worker who volunteers at the Correctional Facility.

“What better way to say ‘thank you’ than with food?” Mrs. Otaegui said.

Sheriff Gannon said the gift demonstrates not only appreciation for the rigors Correctional Facility Officers and non-sworn Staff have endured since the pandemic began unfolding in early March but kindness and generosity as a family.

Empanadas donated to Officers of the Morris County Correctional Facility by the family of Corrections Officer Anthony Otaegui.
Empanadas donated to Officers of the Morris County Correctional Facility by the family of Corrections Officer Anthony Otaegui.

Speaking to the Otaegui family and Officers outside the Correctional Facility, the Sheriff held up one of the family’s signs and read its message aloud:

“In case you haven’t felt it, you are appreciated. In case you wanted to quit today, don’t. You’re needed. In case you need to talk and feel no one will listen, there are many who will. In case you haven’t heard it today, THANK YOU.”

“I don’t think anybody here could write a better policy than that,” the Sheriff said.

He said the Correctional Facility Officers and non-sworn Staff have persevered through the crisis and emerged stronger. A total of 30 Officers and Staff had contracted COVID-19 and all have recovered and returned to work.

At the peak, 19 Correctional Facility inmates were ill with the virus and cared for round-the-clock in isolation units by Facility Medical Unit staff. All but five inmates, who are doing well, have recovered.

The family of Morris County Corrections Officer Anthony Otaegui, in front row, with Corrections Officers and Correctional Facility Command Staff behind him.
The family of Morris County Corrections Officer Anthony Otaegui, in front row, with Corrections Officers and Correctional Facility Command Staff behind him.

“It’s been a little bit of a change for the Agency. I would suggest it’s been an excellent change. I’ve seen heroism here like no place else. I’m very proud of each and every one of you.  I’m very proud of things that are maybe more important than running a jail and that’s running a family,” the Sheriff said.

Mrs. Otaegui said that she, her mother, Lucy Calderon, and her daughters who range in age from 12 to 4, started preparing the empanadas Wednesday and then fried them early Thursday morning, shortly before delivering them to the Correctional Facility.

“We just had to do something to show our gratitude,” Mrs. Otaegui said.

 

 

 

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon Highlights Value of Emergency Medical Service Workers During National EMS Week

On the 46th anniversary of National EMS Week, members of the Morris County Office of Emergency Management Special Operations Group (SOG) responded on the afternoon of May 18th to a crisis call that, fortunately, ended peacefully.

SOG’s Emergency Medical Services members were deployed to the incident with members of the Morris County Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team (SERT). SOG members are responsible for the on-scene tactical medical support for SERT members and are integrated into all SERT operations.

Members of the Morris County Office of Emergency Management Special Operations Group (SOG), from left: Morris Township Police Officer James VanValen, Morris County Sheriff's Office Detective Sgt. Christina Kovacs, OEM Director Jeffrey Paul, Saint Clare's Hospital Paramedic Joseph Householder, Sheriff's Office Investigator Balkis Bernard, and Saint Clare's Hospital Paramedic Ryan Stickle.
Members of the Morris County Office of Emergency Management Special Operations Group (SOG), from left: Morris Township Police Officer James VanValen, Morris County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sgt. Christina Kovacs, OEM Director Jeffrey Paul, Saint Clare’s Hospital Paramedic Joseph Householder, Sheriff’s Office Investigator Balkis Bernard, and Saint Clare’s Hospital Paramedic Ryan Stickle.

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and Bureau of Law Enforcement Undersheriff Mark Spitzer also responded to the call that involved a distraught individual.

The value of the SOG Emergency Medical Services professionals to SERT and the overall importance of EMS workers to communities during the national COVID-19 pandemic cannot be overstated, Sheriff Gannon said.

“I want to pay a special tribute to the phenomenal members of the Morris County OEM Special Operations Group for their medical skills and calm under pressure,” Sheriff Gannon said.

SOG members who responded to Monday’s call are Morris County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sergeant Christina Kovacs, Sheriff’s Office Investigator Balkis Bernard, Morris Township Police Officer James VanValen, OEM Director and SOG Commander Jeffrey S. Paul, and Saint Clare’s Hospital Paramedics and SOG Members Joseph Householder and Ryan Stickle.

“The county of Morris and the Morris County Sheriff’s Office are fortunate to have a highly-trained group of medical professionals as part of the team. I have had the opportunity to see, first-hand, the lifesaving efforts managed by SOG members. The training is top-notch and overall commitment of its members is unwavering,” Sheriff Gannon said.

In 1974, President Gerald Ford authorized EMS Week to celebrate the hard work of EMS practitioners, their value to communities and the critical link they provide to emergency medical care.

National EMS Week is celebrated this year from May 17 through May 23.