By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
MAYS LANDING – Atlantic County Sheriff Eric Scheffler on Wednesday accepted delivery of a new Hope One mobile outreach van he hopes will soon be in service helping people overcome difficulties with addiction and more.
The vehicle, which is larger than the older model currently in use, was purchased at a cost of $246,000. The purchase was funded through a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant totaling 50% of the cost, with the remainder being shared equally between the Sheriff’s Office Foundation, AtlantiCare and the Hansen Foundation.
“We are hoping to have it operational within a month,” Scheffler said.
Since Sept. 1, 2018, the retrofitted 14-year-old Hope One mobile outreach van has provided on-the-spot drug and alcohol treatment resources in communities around the county to ease the transition from addiction to sober living. However, the new van will do so much more, Scheffler said.
“Not only are we able to continue the outreach we have been doing with mental health, addiction, Narcan training and food and clothing drives, we will be incorporating other services as well,” he said. “We are looking to partner with AtlantiCare on wound care, incorporate distribution of suboxone and methadone, and provide other services such as veterans outreach, Spanish Community Center functions, and the like.”
The Sheriff’s Office is inviting other non-profits that do not have mobile outreach services to use the van.
“But it will never go out and not be operational as Hope One,” he said. “There will always be outreach people there to help those in crisis, regardless of what groups are operating with us. We will provide multiple services.”
Scheffler said he is excited about the multifunctional use of the van and the ability to bring in partners to help as many people possible with the services they need.
He said the older van will still be used, although the coronavirus pandemic has temporarily taken it off the road.
“We had to stop our mobile outreach, but we are still taking calls over the phone and helping people,” he said.
The Mobile One call center was able to provide addiction resources to three people on Wednesday.
The Sheriff is also collaborating with other partners on a delivery service to help isolated veterans and senior citizens get free deliveries of medicine and food during the medical crisis.
“It’s a scary time and there’s a lot of fear and anxiety out there,” Scheffler said. “We need to work together as a group no matter what side of the political realm you’re on, and communicate openly with each other to get out there and help those who need it the most.”
Scheffler is seeking his second three-year term as sheriff in the November election.
The Sheriff’s Office is also changing its internal protocols to protect employees during the pandemic.
“We want to make sure our people stay safe and healthy,” he said. “Supplies are in short supply at this time and we are trying to get things in. Everything is changing and we are adapting as it comes.”
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