The Burlington County Sheriff’s Department Hope One mobile unit offers resources for residents who are suffering from addiction.
“We go around once a week to various towns throughout Burlington County,” said Lt. Mike Ditzel of the Burlington County Sheriff’s Department. “We don’t normally approach anybody unless it looks like they need help.”
The outreach program started in 2019 and provides services such as treatment for opioid and alcohol addiction, peer recovery specialists, chaplain services, Narcan training and free Narcan kits.
“The big part of the program is obviously the treatment side of things,” Ditzel said.
He explained how Hope One helps people who have been denied entry to rehabilitation centers.
“We have providers right on the bus that, in many cases, have gotten that person into treatment within hours,” he said. “When otherwise they’ve spent weeks (and) months trying to get (in) and they haven’t been able to.”
According to Ditzel, in 2021 the program placed 26 people into treatment, had 1,897 contacts and distributed 300 Narcan kits.
“A contact could be somebody coming up to the bus and we get them into treatment or give them treatment resources,” Ditzel said. “Maybe they’re not ready to go at that moment but we kind of give them some information to get that ball rolling.”
“That’s a very exciting part of the program, when you can really help out somebody even if it’s only one person,” he said.
The program also provides photo identification.
“A lot of people have issues getting help either for housing, social services or even getting into treatment because they don’t have identification,” Ditzel said. “We have the ability to make them identification on the spot.”
“It’s not an official government identification but it has their picture and their identifiers and it’s verified through the sheriff’s department through various government systems that we can use.”
Through grant funding, provided by the Burlington County Health Department and Human Services of Burlington County, Hope One has received hundreds of Narcan kits that contain two doses each.
“In the event that somebody overdoses, they have the Narcan available to hopefully save a life,” Ditzel said.
Hope One also helps those seeking shelter by giving out warm kits, toiletry kits and food.
“We’ve done a few outreach events at churches or homeless encampments where we can really get to the community, especially the hard-to-reach communities, as often as we can,” Ditzel said.
He noted how people who come on the bus hesitate to receive help the same day.
“They have to be ready to go,” Ditzel said.
Ditzel finds the connection between the community and law enforcement as a highlight of the program.
“A lot of these people that are suffering don’t have the means to get help and they’re so surprised that we’re coming to them,” he said. “We’re not there looking for the criminal side of things, we’re there for help and outreach.”
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the bus will be at the Willingboro Library on March 15, The Promenade at Sagemore on March 22 and at the Walmart in Lumberton on March 29.
To receive updates on Hope One, visit the Burlington County Sheriff’s Department’s official Facebook page.