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.
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.
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.
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.