Friday, October 6th, 2017

Stigma-Free Effort to Deal with the Opiate and Mental Health Issues

On a beautiful Saturday in June at a major Morris County event, a 40-year-old college-educated businessman was at the lowest point of his life, sitting in the back of the “Hope One” vehicle.  He was strung out, addicted to opiates, had a strained relationship with his children and wanted to end his life.

That’s when a Hope One Certified Peer Recovery Specialist, someone who has walked in the shoes of addiction and despair, had a conversation with the struggling man. “How can you make your life better?” asked Specialist Alton Robinson, starting a vital conversation with the man.photo of the Hope One van in action

That same evening, the man is despair agreed to enter a 90-day treatment program which he successfully completed.  He later moved to a recovery house and is now home, working and “doing great.”

It’s stories like this that have made the Morris County Sheriff’s Hope One program a success in its first six months of travelling around Morris County. To combat the opioid crisis, Hope One was launched on April 3 by Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon in partnership with the Morris County Department of Human Services, the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris, and Morris County Prevention is Key (MCPIK) and their Center for Addiction Recovery Education and Success (CARES).

photo of Sheriff James M. Gannon

Sheriff James M. Gannon

“Every nine minutes a new contact is made on Hope One,” said Sheriff Gannon. “We have engaged 1,724 people in six months.  We have traveled to  32 of the 39 towns in Morris County. We bring services to the clients.  That’s why we’re different.  We’re still trending at 60 percent above last year in fatal overdoses.  There is a strong need and we’re addressing that need.”

“This program has proven effective by providing a comfortable, stigma-free setting where successes have been immediate,” said Morris County Director of Human Services Jennifer Carpinteri.

Hope One is a mobile recovery access vehicle offering critical support for persons and families struggling with addiction. It travels twice a week around Morris County bringing services to persons in need, and in places where they live and congregate.  A Sheriff’s Officer, licensed clinician and a certified peer recovery specialist staff the vehicle.  Hope One is able to provide clients immediate access to services and treatment facilities, helping to put them on the road to recovery and wellness.

It also offers the lifesaving drug Naloxone, also known as Narcan, to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses.  Hope One provides Narcan education, training and kits to family members and friends of those suffering from opiate addiction, free of charge.

Hope One program equipment“The mission of Hope One and the newly opened Hope Wing in the Morris County Correctional Facility is to prevent drug overdoses and deaths in Morris County,” said Sheriff Gannon. “We want to return those addicted to productive members of our society.”

The Hope One team is “planting a seed,” said Alton Robinson.  For every person who visits Hope One, they take away information about recovery, addiction, mental illness and available services.

Visitors pass this information along to loved ones, neighbors, friends and co-workers, some of who are struggling with addiction.  In turn, these individuals come to Hope One to learn more and possibly connect with services.

“Hope One is a meeting point that takes on a sense of community.  We will be here to support you,” said Melody Runyon of CARES.

“The Sheriff truly understands the power of prevention, treatment, and law enforcement working together,” said President and CEO of Daytop NJ Jim Curtin.

“People don’t know the services that are available to them.  When you leave Hope One, you can leave with more than you came with,” said mental health clinician Madine Despine of the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris.

The Hope One Team removes barriers through collaborations and relationships with treatment providers that have access to available beds daily.  The mental health clinician on Hope One provides options, schedules appointments and follows up with individuals struggling in the community.photo of the Hope One van

Morris County Sheriff’s Corporal Erica Valvano, who is a a member of the Hope One Team, spoke about one recent days of  Hope One activity: training nine people to administer Narcan and respond to opiate overdoses; offering services to a woman who approached Hope One for a friend struggling with severe depression; educating several concerned parents of teens educated themselves on the opioid epidemic.

“Hope One is a huge asset to law enforcement in the county. Providing help to those who need it, and education and training to those who can help someone else, begins to combat the issue before there needs to be police involvement,” said Mt. Arlington Chief Keith Licata, President of the Morris County Police Chiefs Association.

On Tuesday, Oct. 3, Hope One celebrated its six month anniversary in Dover at JFK Commons Park. For a schedule of upcoming Hope One stops, visit www.sheriff.morriscountynj.gov or www.facebook.com/MorrisCountySheriffsOffice/ or Twitter @Hopeonemorris.

For further information on CARES, contact 973-625-1143  or facebook.com/caresnj