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NJ Expands Program To Pair Police With Mental Health Counselors

New Jersey police officers in casual collared shirts and cargo pants were assigned to arrive with mental health counselors to emergencies involving people in emotional distress. The two-person teams began showing up in unmarked cars, without flashing lights or sirens, in three northern New Jersey communities. Part of a pilot program that New Jersey’s Attorney General’s Office created after the 2020 police killing of George Floyd, the approach — called Arrive Together — was meant to improve the response to mental health needs of people in crisis and reduce the risk that encounters might end in violence, the New York Times reports. “There’s mistrust,” said Daniel McCaffery, the police chief in Roselle Park, N.J., where mental health teams began operating in December. “There’s a feeling among some residents that the people you call for help are the people who may kill you ...“We have to rethink our approach.”

On Wednesday, New Jersey officials announced plans to do that. What began as a pilot initiative will be expanded into 10 of New Jersey’s 21 counties, with teams in 30 communities. State leaders laid out an ambitious goal of extending the program throughout New Jersey in the coming years to become the first statewide effort of its kind. Gov. Philip Murphy said he would include $10 million in the next fiscal year’s budget to pay for the expansion. Policymakers across the U.S. have been grappling with ways to address fatal police shootings and beatings, most recently in Memphis with the death of Tyre Nichols. In New Jersey, Arrive Together seeks to build trust between the police and the community, and to reduce the time people in crisis wait before being connected to a mental health screener. “It is common sense,” said Sarah Adelman, commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Human Services. “It is also radical and system-changing work.”


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