MORRIS COUNTY — The Morris County Sheriff’s Office on April 3, announced the launch of the Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative (PAARI), an expansion of Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon’s hallmark Hope One mobile substance abuse recovery and resource vehicle whose two-year anniversary coincides with the start of PAARI.
The launch of PAARI and expansion of Hope One in Morris County is made possible through receipt of a $332,658 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice that was applied for in 2018 by Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Erica Valvano and Sheriff’s Office Trends and Analysis Team Analyst Jane Recktenwald.
Expanding on its commitment to help wrest individuals from the grip of addiction and, for some, stop the cycle of crime associated with substance abuse disorders, the Morris County Sheriff’s Office is the first law enforcement agency in Morris County to launch PAARI and the only Sheriff’s Office in New Jersey to embark on the initiative that draws municipal police departments and non-profit agencies into a partnership to help individuals fight the ravages of addiction.
Under PAARI, individuals who walk into participating police departments and request help for their addiction will be screened, and in most cases connected with a certified peer recovery specialist who will guide the individual to treatment options and resources. Daytop-NJ, a premier substance use facility based in Mendham, is the Sheriff’s Office’s partner in providing the peer recovery specialists.
Individuals who self-initiate the treatment process by going to police headquarters must surrender any drugs or paraphernalia and will not be criminally charged with possessing contraband, under a directive to police prepared by the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office. As participation is voluntary, the individual can elect not to continue seeking assistance.
Separately, police can use their discretion in approaching individuals they encounter on the street to determine whether they are open to meeting with a peer recovery specialist. However, the PAARI program exclusively applies to people who ask for help and cannot be used in lieu of charges or arrest.
“With opioid and heroin addiction consuming the lives of family members, neighbors, classmates and friends, and often leading them to break the law to finance their addictions, we all have a stake as human beings to try to stop the scourge,” Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon said.
“Police officers who are familiar with vulnerable populations in their communities are well-suited to start the process of helping people connect with treatment services in a compassionate, non-judgmental style,” Sheriff Gannon said.
Daytop-NJ President and CEO Jim Curtin said of the PAARI partnership, which builds upon the non-profit’s relationship with Hope One: “We commend Morris County Sheriff Gannon for implementing the PAARI program, and are honored to provide Daytop’s trained peer counselors as a first line of defense and a choice for people with substance use disorders.”
“The PAARI program recognizes that addiction is a disease, not a character flaw or a crime, and implementing PAARI in police stations throughout Morris County is a critical step in saving the lives of those suffering from this devastating disease,” CEO Curtin said.
Morris County Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp noted the array of care programs aimed at ending the disease of addiction.
“The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office looks forward to partnering again with the Sheriff and our municipal law enforcement partners on this life-saving initiative. As with Operation Helping Hand and Narcan 2.0, under the leadership of Attorney General Grewal, we and Morris County law enforcement agencies have sought to stem the tide of the horrific opioid and heroin epidemic. PAARI is another innovative effort by Sheriff Gannon towards preventing the needless loss of lives experienced during this plague which has engulfed many of our residents,” Prosecutor Knapp said.
“Expanding upon the concept of Hope One and the addition of Medically-Assisted Treatment (MAT) at our County Correctional Facility, the innovative work of the Sheriff’s Office has taken the lead in New Jersey towards reducing overdose deaths and we join in this effort today and going forward,” Prosecutor Knapp said.
On April 3, about 50 police chiefs and officers from 20 municipal police departments around Morris County participated in four hours of instruction on their obligations under PAARI, at Morris County’s Public Safety Training Academy in Parsippany. Police chiefs and superior officers from the Butler, Mount Olive, Montville, Dover, and Morristown Police Departments are part of an advisory group that met in February to plan the PAARI launch.
“The PAARI program helps local law enforcement tremendously because it delivers certified peer recovery specialists out to meet directly with the person who is suffering from addiction, either on the street or right in our municipal police stations. As a result, we can offer real help,” said Butler Police Chief Ciro Chimento.
Police department participation in PAARI is voluntary and the Morris County Sheriff’s Office hopes to make the program available at all police departments in the future. To activate their police department’s participation in PAARI, governing bodies in the respective municipalities have to pass resolutions.
The Morris County Sheriff’s Office has signed on as a venue to receive walk-in requests for help from individuals battling substance abuse, after the Morris County Board of Freeholders in March 2019 approved a resolution of support.
The freeholder resolution commends the Sheriff’s Office “for taking a leadership role in creating a positive impact on individuals and their families struggling with addiction, thus, providing a clear path to recovery.”
PAARI was launched in 2015 in Massachusetts as a constructive alternative to incarceration for people battling substance abuse and about 430 law enforcement agencies in 33 states have signed on.
PAARI USA Executive Director Allie Hunter McDade was present for the April 3 launch and said of the movement:
“We are delighted to be present as the Morris County Sheriff’s Office joins PAARI and launches the Hope One-PAARI Program. They are joining a growing movement of nearly 500 law enforcement agencies nationwide that are using non-arrest strategies to address the mounting opioid epidemic.”
“As we have seen with other PAARI initiatives across the country, this program will create a pathway to treatment and recovery, which will ultimately prevent overdose deaths and improve community safety and well-being. We are grateful to all the partners involved for the dedication and leadership, and we are thrilled to have the Morris County Sheriff’s Office as partners in this important effort,” Executive Director McDade said.
Hope One, which travels twice a week to communities in Morris County where drug overdoses and narcotics arrests are occurring, has logged more than 6,400 contacts with individuals since April 3, 2017, and 1,636 people as of March 31, 2019, were trained by Hope One staff in how to administer Narcan to a person who is overdosing. Hope One has verified that at least 32 lives have been saved by people administering Narcan provided to them on their visit to Hope One.