Morris County Sheriff’s Officers Undergo Additional Training on Engaging with People with Substance Use and Mental Health Disorders

The Morris County Sheriff’s Office is expanding the number of Sheriff’s Officers who are trained to screen and interact with individuals who voluntarily request help for substance use disorders.

Morris County Sheriff's Office Corporal Erica Valvano conducts a training session for Officers on the Police Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative (PAARI)
Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Erica Valvano conducts a training session for Officers on the Police Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative (PAARI)

On April 3, 2019, the Morris County Sheriff’s Office became the first law enforcement agency in the county and the first Sheriff’s Office in New Jersey to sign on to the Police Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative (PAARI), which offers people with substance use disorders a pathway to treatment and recovery.

Sheriff’s Officers Ryan Warnett and Stephanie Mitchell initially were designated as PAARI Officers who would interact with individuals who voluntarily sought help for their addiction at the Sheriff’s Office at the Morris County Courthouse in Morristown.

This week, another 10 Officers and Superior Officers underwent preliminary PAARI training organized by Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Erica Valvano, the Coordinator of the Office’s Hope One mobile substance abuse and mental health outreach program.

The PAARI training by Corporal Valvano, Mental Health Advocate Al Shurdom of the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris, and Therapist Francesca Viola of Daytop-NJ highlighted how Officers can be better attuned to sensitively engage with people who are struggling with addiction and may have a co-occurring mental health disorder.

“Have empathy and compassion and show the best parts of being human to deescalate a situation,” Advocate Shurdom advised.

Mental Health Advocate Al Shurdom of the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris conducts Police Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative training for Morris County Sheriff's Officers
Mental Health Advocate Al Shurdom of the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris conducts Police Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative training for Morris County Sheriff’s Officers

“The opioid pandemic claimed lives well before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. To have a healthy community and reduce crime and recidivism today, law enforcement agencies have to be willing to assist individuals who reach out for help,” Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon said.

Fatal overdoses are on the rise in Morris County and across the state. From January to June 30, 2019, there were 38 deaths by overdose in the county; in the same time period this year, there have been 47 suspected overdose deaths.

PAARI, an early diversion program first started in Massachusetts to stem the nationwide opioid crisis, is an extension of Hope One’s mission to provide stigma-free assistance navigating recovery and rehab options.  More than 400 law enforcement agencies across 32 states now offer PAARI to residents struggling with addiction.

In Morris County, 13 police departments and the Sheriff’s Office offer PAARI walk-in services.  Two additional police departments are going through the PAARI training.

In offering PAARI, the Morris County Sheriff’s Office has partnered with Daytop-New Jersey and the Rockaway-based Center for Addiction Recovery Education & Success (CARES) to address the needs of individuals who seek help from the agency.

Anyone who voluntarily walks into the Morris County Courthouse and requests help for a substance use disorder is first screened by a trained Officer and then connected with a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist from Daytop-New Jersey who assists the person with accessing treatment.

If Narcan is deployed on the individual and he or she is then sent to an emergency room, a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist from CARES is alerted to meet with the individual at the hospital.

The police departments in Morris County that serve as PAARI walk-in sites are: Butler, Chatham Township, Chester, Dover, Jefferson, Mendham Township, Montville, Morris Plains, Morristown, Mount Arlington, Mountain Lakes, Mount Olive, Rockaway Borough and Washington Township.

 

 

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon Reminds Motorists to Remove Valuables and Lock Vehicles As COVID-19 Restrictions Ease and Outings Increase

As restrictions ease under Stage 2 of New Jersey’s ‘Road Back’ plan, motorists are reminded to always remove valuables and lock their vehicles at home and while venturing out to get-togethers and public sites.

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon – whose Agency is part of an Auto Theft Task Force created in the spring of 2020 – noted that burglaries of vehicles in Morris County have decreased by 43 percent in the first six months of 2020 from the same time period in 2019.

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon Reminds Motorists to Remove Valuables and Lock Vehicles As COVID-19 Restrictions Ease and Outings Increase

So far this year, 79 vehicle break-ins have been reported, including three recent “smash and grab” crimes.  Over the first six months of 2019, there were 138 reported car burglaries. In total last year, there were 233 car burglaries and 215 vehicle thefts reported.

While vehicle burglaries currently are down, thefts of actual vehicles in the county between January 1, 2020 and June 30, 2020 have not decreased.

There have been 97 reported vehicle thefts so far in 2020, compared to 98 over the first six months of 2019.

“By taking some simple actions, vehicle owners have real power to protect themselves and their property and discourage thieves. We’re in Stage 2 of the Road Back in New Jersey and people are naturally anxious to leave home to gather, worship, socialize and exercise. But don’t give thieves opportunities to steal your property by leaving doors unlocked or valuables visible on car seats,” Sheriff Gannon said.

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon

Chester Police Chief Thomas Williver, the president of the Morris County Police Chiefs Association, echoed Sheriff Gannon’s advisory.

“The citizens of Morris County have faced a truly challenging time over the last several months and have persevered.  As we return to normalcy, the Morris County Police Chiefs’ Association urges everyone not to be a victim of a crime by reminding them to take the simple step of ‘Lock It or Lose It,’” Chief Williver said.

The following are proactive steps that vehicle owners and community members can take to deter thieves:

  • Never leave vehicles unlocked or idling unattended, even if you are dashing into a home or store.
  • Never leave a key fob in a vehicle.
  • Neighbors should watch out for neighbors. Call your neighbor if you see that their car is unlocked or valuables are visible inside the vehicle.
  • Report any suspicious activity or person.
  • Call 911 to report crimes in progress.

The multi-agency auto theft/anti-crime task force was created to   combat vehicle burglaries and thefts, along with other issues affecting the Morris County community.  The initiative was first conceptualized by Chief Andrew Caggiano of the Montville Police Department and led to a  partnership between the Morris County Sheriff’s Office, the Morris County Police Chiefs’ Association, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office and the New Jersey State Police Auto Theft Task Force, in coordination with various law enforcement agencies.

The Task Force uses the motto “Lock It Or Lose It” to drive home the point that a simple action can thwart theft.

The Task Force has found that in many cases, stolen vehicles have been left unlocked by the owner with a key fob left in the car, allowing a thief to immediately drive it away.

In some incidents in Morris County, suspects have entered victims’ homes by using garage door openers found in unlocked vehicles. Once inside the homes, thieves have been able to locate key fobs and steal cars.

Unlocked vehicles that do not have a key fob inside are also being searched for valuables. In some cases, car burglars will brazenly smash windows of vehicles parked at gyms, parks, and day care centers and grab purses, wallets and other valuables left inside. Bank and credit cards stolen from inside these vehicles are being used in multiple locations, compromising victims’ finances.

With Thanks To All Partners, the Morris County Drive-Thru COVID-19 Test Site Ceases Operations On June 26, 2020

The Morris County drive-thru COVID-19 test site, started on March 30 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, closed down on Friday, June 26, after more than 8,000 people were tested over the past 13 weeks.

Supervising Nurse K.J. Feury of Atlantic Health System, Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and Morris County Law and Public Safety Director Scott DiGiralomo at the Morris County COVID-19 test site on June 26, 2020.
Supervising Nurse K.J. Feury of Atlantic Health System, Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and Morris County Law and Public Safety Director Scott DiGiralomo at the Morris County COVID-19 test site on June 26, 2020.

Operators of the test site on the County College of Morris campus – including Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and Sheriff’s Officers – spent Friday morning assisting a steady stream of 225 people with last-day appointments for nasal swabbings that would show after a lab analysis whether they were positive for COVID-19.

The last day was also one of gratitude that the partnership between multiple agencies that led to creation of the test site worked seamlessly and efficiently.  Sheriff Gannon noted that when testing first began, 43 percent of the individuals tested were confirmed positive for COVID-19.

In recent days, the number of people whose test at the site was positive had dropped to less than 1 percent, the Sheriff said.

Morris County Sheriff's Officer Stephen Nowatkowski assists a medical technician with securing their personal protective equipment at the Morris County COVID-19 test site on June 26, 2020.
Morris County Sheriff’s Officer Stephen Nowatkowski assists a medical technician with securing their personal protective equipment at the Morris County COVID-19 test site on June 26, 2020.

He called all the test site partners courageous, saying they put themselves at risk though attired in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) because they wanted to help others combat the virus in as calm a way as possible. Along with Morris County Department of Law and Public Safety Director Scott DiGiralomo, Sheriff Gannon on Friday addressed several groups of test site workers with words of thanks.

“I think of the word courage to describe what happened here. We didn’t know what was going on. We were looking at the wind every day, how the wind was blowing, because we didn’t know what was going on in those early days. But it was courage that had you people step up to the plate to say ‘We got this, we’ll take care of it,’” Sheriff Gannon said.

Partners in the test site included the Morris County Sheriff’s Office, the Morris County Office of Emergency Management and Office of Health Management, both of which Scott DiGiralomo oversees; Atlantic Health System, which provided nurses and medical technicians to do the swabbings; the Morris County Medical Reserve Corps, Morris County Park Police, County College of Morris, and the Morris County Public Safety Training Academy Fire Division.

As they have been since March 30, Fire Division Instructors Scott Warner and Bill Hamilton were on-scene Friday, assisting the medical technicians and Supervising Registered Nurse K.J. Feury with putting on their Tyvek suits and hoods before taking swabs and then decontaminating their protective gear at regular intervals.

Scott Warner, left, and Bill Hamilton, right, assist medical technician Francis  Reardon with his personal protective equipment at the Morris County COVID-19 test site on June 26, 2020.
Scott Warner, left, and Bill Hamilton, right, assist medical technician Francis Reardon with his personal protective equipment at the Morris County COVID-19 test site on June 26, 2020.

“This is a great group of people and it’s amazing how it all worked out so well,” said K.J. Feury.

The Bar Foundation of the Morris County Bar Association thanked the operators Friday by ordering pizza for all the test site workers.

CCM President Dr. Anthony Iacono also thanked the partners and said he marveled at how smoothly the test site ran.

“They say it takes a village, but wow, what a village.  You folks just did an absolutely amazing job,” Dr. Iacono said.