Morris County HOPE-ONE

Morris County Sheriff James Gannon

Stories From Main Street: Old S.W.A.T. Truck On Mission Of Mercy In NJ

April 15, 2019 - 12:54 pm

MORRISTOWN, N.J. (WCBS 880) — What would you do with an old S.W.A.T. truck?

“I had an old S.W.A.T. vehicle that was gonna be sidelined, I decided, ‘let’s use that vehicle,’” said Sheriff James Gannon.

The Morris County sheriff was looking for a way to combat the opioid crisis in his area and wanted to use the old police vehicle for something positive.

He tells WCBS 880’s Sean Adams in this week’s “Stories from Main Street” that he took the sheriff’s star off the old S.W.A.T. truck and painted it with purple markings.

“We didn’t want people running from the truck like it was a government vehicle with a big sheriff’s star on it. I wanted people to run towards it like the Good Humor truck,” said Gannon.

The vehicle, which was dubbed HOPE-ONE, is now on a mission of mercy and conducts community outreach for people addicted to opioid pills and heroin.

Gannon started the project when he realized how many people in the New Jersey county were struggling with addiction.

“I would argue around everybody’s Thanksgiving dinner table is a story of addiction,” he said.

More than 3,100 people died of drug overdoses in New Jersey during 2018 and state officials said more than half of those deaths could be linked to drug use related to the opioid pain reliever Fentanyl.

Gannon sees that the problem isn’t going away on its own. He says HOPE-ONE is not patrolling with the intent of arresting anyone.

“Every conversation begins with a cup of coffee,” he said.

On board the truck is a sheriff's corporal, a mental health professional and an addiction specialist.

“We have that certified peer recovery specialist, arguably the most important person on the truck, that person is out there, addiction from the inside out and could talk the language that you and I can't talk to the person who's addicted,” Gannon explains.

“We even offer people identification,” the sheriff continued. “Many people in the at risk population have lost their ID, it's been stolen, let me tell you something I can't get a person into detox, or to rehab, without identification.”

Over the past two years, HOPE-ONE has helped more than 6,400 people, trained over 1,600 people to use Narcan and has resuscitated 32 overdose victims.

“We're not gonna arrest our way out of this problem,” Gannon said of the opioid crisis, “we’re not gonna incarcerate our way out of this problem.”

Gannon has also unveiled a new partnership with the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) to put and emphasis on helping, not arresting addicts.