United States Department of Health and Human Services Regional Executive Officer Dennis Gonzalez on Monday, October 21, visited the Morris County Sheriff’s Office Hope One mobile substance use resource and recovery unit while promoting National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on October 26.
Mr. Gonzalez, Public Affairs Specialist Sean Hightower, and Matt Birchenough, Director of Special Events for the Partnership For A Drug-Free New Jersey, met Sheriff James M. Gannon and his Hope One team that was on the Morristown Green as part of a twice-weekly schedule of bringing critical recovery services directly to people.
Mr. Gonzalez was in Morristown to promote National Take-Back Day when people can drop off expired and unused prescription medications at multiple locations, including at least 13 in Morris County. Mr. Gonzalez said medicine cabinets containing unused opioid prescription drugs can tempt people into experimenting or trying a few, which can easily lead to addiction and a quest on the street for cheaper drugs like heroin.
Mr. Gonzalez met the Hope One team – Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Erica Valvano, CARES Certified Peer Recovery Specialist Kelly LaBar and Madine Despeine-Udoh, Director of Self-Help, Advocacy and Education for the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris – while Sheriff Gannon detailed Hope One’s impressive statistics since its launch on April 3, 2017.
“Hope One is an outstanding program, very innovative and creative. Congratulations to the Sheriff for having the vision to bring this to Morris County. It’s great the Sheriff is so proactive in a county where you wouldn’t think addiction would be happening,” said Mr. Gonzalez, who oversees HHS Region 2 that encompasses New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.
“For the Executive Officer of the federal Department of Health and Human Services to visit Hope One and meet
people struggling with substance use disorders, that shows true concern and a commitment to end the grip of addiction that opioids and heroin have on so many people,” Sheriff Gannon said.
Hope One has had contact with 9,389 individuals since its launch, and trained 2,057 people in how to administer Narcan to reverse an opioid-induced overdose. The staff have arranged for 152 people to receive recovery or rehab services and another 114 people have been connected to mental health services.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is one of multiple federal, state, county and local programs to curb the opioid and heroin epidemic. It’s a safe, convenient and responsible way to dispose of unused or expired prescription drugs. In Morris County, it supplements Prescription Drug Drop-Off boxes that many police departments have on-site.
The National Take Back Day in April 2019 brought in 937,443 pounds – nearly 469 tons – of unused or expired prescription medications.