MORRISTOWN, NJ – Suspected fatal overdoses in Morris County are up by 38 percent over the same 14-week time frame in 2019, prompting the Morris County Sheriff’s Office Hope One team to re-emphasize its network of support services during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Right now, Morris County is following a statewide trend of increased fatal opioid-related overdoses,” Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon said. “It’s possible that individuals struggling with addiction feel increased stress during this pandemic or, because of social distancing, lack direct contact with supportive friends and family who normally would check on their welfare.

“Help from the Hope One team is here, just a phone call away. We don’t accept that anyone agonizing over a heroin addiction or substance use disorder be alone without resources and support, especially at this very difficult time,” Gannon said.

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So far in 2020, 26 individuals in Morris County have suffered suspected lethal overdoses, including one Thursday night. In the first 14 weeks of 2019, by comparison, there were 16 suspected fatal overdoses.

Following the same upswing, in New Jersey there have been 789 suspected fatal overdoses between January 1 and March 31, 2020. In the same time frame last year, there were 657 suspected overdose deaths.

In Montville, there have been two overdoses during the COVID-19 lockdown, but fortunately neither was fatal, Montville Police Chief Andrew Caggiano said.

Help from Hope One

Hope One is Sheriff Gannon’s award-winning mobile substance abuse and mental health outreach program launched on April 3, 2017 to stem the crisis of opioid addiction and overdoses.

Hope One, which has made more than 10,400 contacts with individuals since its launch, is a partnership with the Rockaway-based Prevention Is Key (PIK) and its sister agency, the Center for Addiction Recovery, Education & Success (CARES), Daytop-NJ, the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris, and the Morris County Department of Human Services.

If you or someone you care about needs help, contact the following services:

  • Center for Addiction Recovery, Education & Success (CARES): 24-hour support line at 973-625-1143. CARES also will deliver Narcan, upon request, in a safe, non-contact way.
  • Hope One: 973-590-0300. For Narcan training via Zoom, please contact Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Erica Valvano at erica@co.morris.nj.us or at 973-590-0300.
  • Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris: Peer support line from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.: 877-760-4987; 866-445-3902; 800-381-2059. The Mental Health Association has added a daytime number for peer support, Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please call: 877-760-4987.

Help in Your Backyard

“Hope One-PAARI would like to make an aggressive approach to assist people before they overdose,” Corporal Valvano, the Hope One coordinator, said.

The Morris County Sheriff’s Trends and Analysis Team (MCSTAT) examined the overdose data and determined that most of the individuals who recently died had overdosed in the past.

PAARI-participating police departments such as the Montville Township Police Department welcome individuals who voluntarily enter headquarters to request help for a substance use disorder. Trained officers screen the individuals and then contact Daytop-NJ, who connects the individual with a certified peer recovery specialist who assists them in accessing detox, rehab and recovery services. 

Despite a temporary halt to the Hope One vehicle making its customary twice-weekly stops in the community due to the Coronavirus, upon request, a team member will deliver free Narcan and advise how it is administered to reverse an opioid-induced overdose.

To read more about the Montville Township Police Department’s PAARI program and its training to help those suffering with addiction, click here.

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