Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon highlighted programs started by his office to combat the opioid pandemic as guest speaker at a Narcan training class for EMTs at Morristown Medical Center.
The Hope One mobile substance abuse recovery vehicle – retrofitted from a defunct SWAT truck into a white and purple resource center – is Sheriff Gannon’s signature program and approaching its second anniversary on April 3.
A key component of Hope One is the free Narcan training offered by its staff, who have confirmed at least 31 lives were saved by people they trained, who in turn administered life-saving doses of the opioid-blocking nasal spray to loved ones in the throes of overdoses.
A crowd of EMTs gathered in an amphitheater of the hospital as part of a continuing education process through the Atlantic Training Center that Monday, Feb. 25, focused on Narcan administration and the role of EMTs in responding to opiate overdoses. Sharing his philosophy that law enforcement also has a duty to act as guardians, Sheriff Gannon said Hope One’s goals of saving the lives of addicts should translate into an end or reduction in crimes users commit in desperate quests for cash to support drug habits.
“After they’ve run out of money and melted Mommy’s silver set and stolen Daddy’s gun collection, they start pulling on handles of people’s cars parked on the street, looking for the Apple iPhones, the watches, looking for cash, looking for cars. They then start doing the retail thefts so they can convert it to money, 10 percent on the dollar, 10 cents on the dollar, 20 cents on the dollar, whatever they get.”
Gannon said: “We need on the guardian side to stay with helping people. We know we’re not arresting our way out of this problem. We need to do something different.”
Gannon’s innovative approach with Hope One – bringing critical recovery services and resources to the people – was replicated in December in Newark, and in the past year by the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Monmouth and Atlantic County Sheriff’s Offices. Burlington County has expressed interest in starting a Hope One program, as Passaic and Bergen counties recently have.
The Morris County Sheriff’s Office Hope One program has made more than 240 stops in Morris County towns in the past 22 months and logged more than 6,200 contacts with individuals. At least 1,600 people have been trained in the use of Narcan by Hope One staff that includes a Sheriff’s Officer, a mental health worker from the Essex and Morris County Mental Health Association, and a certified peer recovery specialist – someone who has experienced addiction and now is uniquely qualified and trained to help others with the battle.
The success of Hope One led to the creation in 2017 of the Hope Wing at the Morris County Correctional Facility. There, inmates committed to overcoming alcohol or drug addiction confront their struggle through daily programs like relapse prevention, anger management counseling, education, spirituality, family and relationship connections and peer-to-peer counseling.