Atlantic County rolled out a new way to help fight the area’s drug epidemic.
“The bottom line is, we have a crisis going on here,” Atlantic County Sheriff Eric Scheffler said. “The hardest thing about this crisis is to connect the services to those who need it.”
That’s where Hope One comes in.
The bus will be staffed with a sheriff’s officer and recovery specialists who will have an index of services at their fingertips, helping maneuver the obstacles that addicts — and those trying to help them — often encounter.
With the mobile unit, the county is bringing together all the services available to help those ready to battle their addiction.
One of the biggest issues for many in addiction trying to get help is not having valid identification to get services. Scheffler said Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner has helped work on a system to get them temporary IDs.
The unit was paid for through private grants and in-kind donations, Scheffler said. The 12-year-old van was fixed up and wrapped by Municipal Equipment Enterprises in Egg Harbor Township.
It will go out to the hardest hit areas of the county.
“The highest addiction, highest sales, highest arrests,” Scheffler said. “Why? Because there are customers there.”
Legacy Treatment Centers — a statewide nonprofit addictions and mental health agency — will provide counselors who will provide screening services and help schedule outpatient mental health or substance abuse treatment.
“One of the most significant challenges in helping people suffering from addiction is getting them access and a pathway to services,” said Legacy CEO Roy Leitstein. “We were happy to answer the call from Atlantic County and we are proud to play a role in this localized, mobile, solution-focused treatment option for individuals who need it most.”
The center even recently opened an outpatient location in Northfield.
The mission has brought everyone together in the community, said retired Atlantic City Deputy Chief William Mazur, who now chairs the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Foundation.
“This isn’t a marathon, it’s a sprint,” he said of the need to move quickly to help stem the addiction epidemic.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” Scheffler said of the support the project has. “I do not see any ceiling to this project.”
The retired Atlantic City police sergeant ran for office to help garner attention — and action.
The name is fitting, said state Sen. Chris Brown.
“Mother Teresa said, ‘We must give hope,’” he said. “‘Always hope.’”