Beginning the week of Sept. 9, the Burlington County Sheriff’s Department will launch an innovative outreach program called Hope One Burlington County. This program is a mobile unit that brings addiction and recovery services, along with resources, to those struggling with drug addiction.
The motor home will include representatives from the Burlington County Health Department, Virtua, members of the Sheriff’s Department and a peer-to-peer advisor. Hope One will travel throughout Burlington County each week to assist the community and to help as many as it can.
“We started this due to the obvious need for an outreach program in Burlington County,” said Undersheriff Michael Ditzel. “There is a sheriff in Morris County that started a program like this about two years ago. He made a presentation about it, and we all knew we wanted to do it here in Burlington County.
“I started putting it together about a year ago,” Ditzel continued. “I went on a ride along with the guys in Morris County and I got to see all of the players needed to make it work in Burlington County.”
After going on the ride along and seeing all that needed to happen to get this project off of the ground, Ditzel begin to shop around the idea and coordinate with the other partners. Word spread fast about the idea, and before long Ditzel begin to answer some of his own questions, including how it would be paid for, where would they get the vehicle from and if all of the needed partners were on board.
“I knew what players to get involved with, but what really hit home and made us do it was this story about this father who came by worried about his son,” said Ditzel. “The father was worried that one day he would come home and see that his son had overdosed. That day, we gave him Narcan training and gave him a kit to take home. Surely enough, his son was overdosed on the couch. The dad was able to save his life and we knew from there we had to do this.”
According to Ditzel, in 2018 there were 161 overdose deaths and 1,023 Narcan deployments in Burlington County. To compare, in 2016, there were 96 overdose deaths and 650 narcan deployments. Ditzel believes the key to improving these numbers is to provide resources on the spot.
“The key to the program is if someone needs help we should get it done then because they may not come back,” said Ditzel. “It’s a one stop for all information and it’s not just for those who are addicts, it’s also for their families.”
Outside of the aforementioned resources the Hope One will provide, they will also provide Narcan training, HIV testing, a portable printer for photo identification, toiletry kits and a member of a local Mt. Holly Chapel.
Hope One will be visiting Broad Street River Line Station in Burlington City Sept. 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the Mount Laurel Walmart located a 934 Route 73 on Sept. 24 at the same time. Further dates can be found on the Burlington County Sheriff’s Department website at www.co.burlington.nj.us/130/Sheriffs-Department.
“The most important thing is really to be there for the addictive and their families,” said Ditzel. “If they’re visiting, they want help so it’s important that we get them help. We don’t want to turn anyone away without providing any resources.”
“There has been no cost to this point,”Ditzel continued. “The vehicle was donated by Mount Laurel Police. There is no cost to the taxpayers, as grant funding will be used to pay for two staff positions as well as the Narcan Kits. Local businesses have also been an amazing support as the toiletry kits, refreshments and supplies for the RV have all been donated to the HOPE ONE Program.”