Pairing police with mental health program slashes ‘use of force’
Program that allies police and mental health workers for 911 calls expands
Bobby Brier, Mental Health Writer, February 9, 2023
A pilot program that pairs police officers with mental health professionals has resulted in “effectively… no uses of force” with no arrests or injuries so far, according to the attorney general.
Now that pilot program will expand to 10 more counties starting in May, Attorney General Matthew Platkin announced Wednesday at an event in Perth Amboy where he was joined by Gov. Phil Murphy, prosecutors, police officers and faith leaders.
The ARRIVE Together initiative, launched in Cumberland County in December 2021, was created to reduce the number of times police used force when responding to 911 calls during a behavioral health crisis.
Resorting to force
Two out of every three uses of force by police officers in New Jersey involved an individual suffering from mental illness or who was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, according to the attorney general’s office.
Currently, in areas where the program is in place, police join mental health screeners when responding to those calls. That has effectively reduced the use of force to zero, Platkin commented.
Now ARRIVE Together will be implemented in 10 more counties across the state, including Essex, Hudson, Cape May, Ocean, Mercer and Middlesex.
The program began with the state police and the Cumberland County Guidance Center in December 2021 and expanded to Union County in June 2022 with a partnership between the Elizbeth and Linden police departments and Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth.
In December, Platkin announced the program would also be expanded to the Bridgeton Police Department in Cumberland County, which joined in partnership with the state police, and to the Roselle Park and Atlantic City police departments.
To date, the ARRIVE Together teams have helped over 300 people suffering from mental health issues, according to the attorney general. On Wednesday, Murphy said he will propose $10 million in funding for the ARRIVE Together initiative in the budget he plans to send to the Legislature.
Governor gets behind program
“I can stand here and say affirmatively that ARRIVE Together is also one of the most vital investments we can make in law enforcement,” Murphy said Wednesday. “An investment whose return is far, far greater than what we put in.”
“As we educate more officers, (and) get them CIT (crisis intervention team) trained, they recognize the signs (and) they know how to do their job better,” said Jennifer Webb-McRae, the Cumberland County prosecutor. “They’re building relationships with the screeners as well.” Even in times where an officer is not out with a screener, they now have the relationships to call and say, ‘Hey, I’m concerned about this person,’” she added.
The expansion would bring the number of police departments involved in the program to over 30, according to the governor’s office. Nine different health care providers from across the state will work with police through the initiative. Additionally, the state police were awarded a federal grant in 2022 for approximately $550,000 to expand the program.
“It is proven to be important … that is something that is needed for all of our communities, not just in some of our communities,” said Reverend Dr. Myra Turner Billips, the assistant pastor at North Stelton AME Church in Piscataway.
In terms of when the program will be statewide, Platkin said he is confident it will be up and running as quickly as possible, noting that the proposed $10 million from the governor in the upcoming budget will not be voted on until June.
“The truth is, we have different needs in different communities,” Platkin said. “And so as we build this out, the key is to be sufficiently flexible (and) that we respond to those needs appropriately. But this is a statewide need and it’s going to have a statewide impact,” he said.