Pilot Program Will Pair Some State Troopers with Mental Health Experts

Source: Kearney Observer

Across Jersey, two of every three uses of force by law enforcement involve a civilian identified as either suffering from mental illness or who is under the influence. Over half of all fatal police encounters occur in similar circumstances.

A pilot program that would pair a New Jersey State Trooper with a certified mental health screener to respond together to 911 calls for behavioral health crises is ready to deploy, Attorney Andrew J. Bruck and New Jersey State Police Colonel Patrick J. Callahan said. The initiative, known as ARRIVE Together (Alternative Responses to Reduce Instances of Violence & Escalation) will operate out of the State Police’s Cumberland County stations in Bridgeton and Port Norris.

Certified mental-health screeners are state-funded roles that operate in all New Jersey counties. The Cumberland County Guidance Center runs the crisis intervention and psychiatric screening program that is partnering with State Police in the ARRIVE Together Initiative.

A guidance center screener will travel with a trooper in the trooper’s radio car to respond to 911 calls for service relating to mental, emotional or behavioral crises during the pilot shifts. Such calls for service will include mental health incidents, confused or disoriented persons, welfare checks and suicide watch.

The Rutgers School of Public Health will perform an assessment, led by Perry N. Halkitis, of the pilot program in order to identify strengths and weaknesses. In the course of the assessment, Rutgers will interview both participating troopers and screeners after their shifts responding to behavioral health emergencies, as well as review data relating to the qualifying calls for service.

“ARRIVE Together immediately connects a mental health professional to the person in crisis from the onset of the call for service,” said Colonel Callahan. “With this partnership, our strategies for response and treatment are significantly augmented, and gives us more options to assist the individual in need, based on the assessment of the mental health professional. The specialist on scene can recommend an array of resources as the situation unfolds, which is an amazing advantage to de-escalate and resolve the problem. The New Jersey State Police is committed to developing innovative thinking and strategies to better serve the communities we have sworn to protect.”

Beyond the ARRIVE Together Initiative, the attorney general’s office is working to ensure all law enforcement officers are prepared for potential interactions with community members experiencing behavioral health crises. To that end, in consultation with subject matter experts, the office has developed a reference card for law enforcement officers summarizing the types of disorders they may encounter, symptoms individuals may experience and suggested responses.

The purpose of the card is not to ask officers to become doctors or psychiatrists, but rather, to gather basic resources on behavioral crisis in a single, accessible location. The double-sided reference card is being distributed to all 38,000 law enforcement officers across the New Jersey.

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