Acting AG Bruck Announces Initiative That Pairs A Mental Health Professional With a Law Enforcement Officer To Respond Together To Behavioral Health Crises

Acting Attorney Andrew J. Bruck and New Jersey State Police Colonel Patrick J. Callahan today announced the beginning of a pilot program that pairs a New Jersey State Police law enforcement Trooper with a certified mental health screener to respond together to 9-1-1 calls for behavioral health crises. The initiative, known as ARRIVE Together (“Alternative Responses to Reduce Instances of Violence & Escalation”), will be operated out of State Police’s Cumberland County stations based in Bridgeton and Port Norris.

Today at 2:30 pm, the Acting Attorney General and Colonel Callahan will join Reverend Charles F. Boyer, Director of Salvation and Social Justice, and Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae, in Cumberland County for a livestreamed public discussion of the initiative and concerns surrounding mental health and policing more generally.

Across New Jersey, two out 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.  The ARRIVE Together Initiative is a recognition that these numbers are unacceptable, and a step towards improving those outcomes.

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 State Police Trooper in the Trooper’s vehicle to respond to 9-1-1 calls for service relating to mental, emotional, or behavioral crises during the pilot shifts that originate in State Police’s Cumberland County areas of responsibility.  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 Dean 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.  After gathering and reviewing the data, Rutgers will provide an objective and independent evaluation of the pilot that will help determine subsequent phases of the ARRIVE Together Initiative. 

“The Acting Attorney General’s new initiative, ARRIVE Together, recognizes the importance of connecting individuals experiencing a crisis with mental health professionals,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “This pilot program will help us assess how we can safely de-escalate behavioral health crises when law enforcement is contacted. We believe that this new initiative will help connect individuals in crisis to care and treatment and can help to reduce violence during interactions with law enforcement.”

“In modern times, we ask law enforcement officers to undertake roles they never expected when choosing to serve—marriage counselor, addiction specialist, social worker.  And increasingly, officers are asked to act like doctors and psychiatrists, determining what drug a person may have taken, or what mental health condition they may be experiencing,” said Acting Attorney General Bruck.  “We need to respond to our community members in crisis with clinicians and compassion, and we need to divert individuals with mental illness away from the criminal justice system. Today’s announcement is yet another step in our effort to implement Governor Murphy’s vision for public safety in New Jersey.”

“This is about saving lives, and rebuilding them,” said Sarah Adelman, Acting Commissioner of the Department of Human Services. “Improved outcomes between law enforcement and those dealing with a mental health crisis is a shared goal. By using a certified mental health screener to help assess situations, we can get an improved understanding of how to better avoid tragedies, enabling us to connect people with treatment. I thank the Attorney General’s Office for taking this step, and look forward to the seeing the results of this pilot program.” 

“What makes this program unique is that ARRIVE Together immediately connects a mental health professional to the person in crisis from the onset of the call for service,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “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.”

“This is an important initiative for law enforcement officers as well as the people they serve,” said Paul Aronsohn, N.J.’s Ombudsman for Individuals with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities and Their Families.  “This smart, thoughtful and proactive approach to policing will likely be a win-win for all involved, because it recognizes and responds to the complex challenges involved in a behavioral crisis.”

“I thank Acting Attorney General Bruck for bringing the ARRIVE Together program to Cumberland County,” said Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae. “A police officer having the assistance of a mental health professional when called to a crisis promotes safety during the encounter and is a step towards long term well-being for the person in crisis.  Cumberland County stands ready to support this important initiative which truly reimagines what public safety will look like in the 21st century.”

Reverend Dr. Charles F. Boyer, Founding Director of Salvation and Social Justice said, “For far too long, law enforcement has been the primary mental health first responder in Black communities. Preventable police shootings show a lack of imagination we as a society have had in responding to mental health and substance use calls that put both the civilian and officer at risk. ARRIVE Together is the first step to community lead policing. I applaud the Attorney General’s office for putting forth such a human focused initiative.”

“As a community leader and New Jersey State Police Chief Chaplain, I’m pleased to support the Office of the Attorney General and State Police’s initiative to collaborate with mental health professionals during incidents of crisis to better serve residents of New Jersey,” said Pastor John R. Taylor, NJSP Chief Chaplain. “Taking this wholistic approach toward policing will go a long way to establishing and building community trust.”

“The Rutgers School of Public Health is a leading and modern school that is directed by the tenets health equity and social justice,” said Perry N. Halkitis, Dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health. “Working with the state, an evaluation team of faculty and students will assist the AG and state police to gather and interpret robust data to inform their decision making about this innovative program. This initiative builds on the pillars that define our school–effective research, sincere community engagement, and active and modern learning.”

“We are excited to be a part of the ARRIVE Together Pilot Program and look forward to this interactive partnership with our dedicated New Jersey State Troopers in the effort to improve outcomes for community members experiencing psychiatric distress,” said Elizabeth Meenan, Executive Director of the Cumberland County Guidance Center.

David Moore, Executive Director of Behavioral Health for Inspira said, “Our community is best served when behavioral health, social services and law enforcement work collaboratively to serve our communities. I applaud the AG’s Office’s pilot of “ARRIVE” as a step to understand how to operationalize cooperation in a manner that improves services, reduce violence and expedites response time. My hope is this pilot quickly leads to enhance real time 24/7 support to law enforcement and citizens in crisis that need professional support. A real step in the right direction!”

“This outstanding pilot program, the first of its kind in New Jersey, will provide a better response by troopers to the handling of emergency calls dealing with our citizens who may be suffering from one of the various types of emotional crisis,” said Wayne Blanchard, President of the State Troopers Fraternal Association. “In addition, we believe that this program will be successful in ultimately reducing use of force situations by providing these citizens with the immediate mental health services they may need. We hope to see great success in the investment in this program, while we continue to explore similar programs across the state to provide better police service, transparency, and accountability.”

Captain Frank Serratore, President of the State Troopers Superior Officers Association said, “In 1921, Colonel Schwarzkopf issued the New Jersey State Police General Order #1 emphasizing that members of the New Jersey State Police should bear in mind that they are a preventive as well as a repressive force and that the prevention of crime is of greater importance than the punishment of criminals.  Here we are one hundred years later and the New Jersey State Police still hold this order in the highest regard!  The ARRIVE Together Program will provide Field Operations Troopers with an additional tool to safely deescalate high risk calls for service and allow for crisis intervention by reducing instances of people in need entering the criminal justice system by linking them to community-based resources.”

“I applaud the Attorney General for starting the ARRIVE Together initiative, it is a big step in the right direction,” said Jiles Ship, President of NOBLE NJ, and Commissioner of the NJ Police Training Commission. “When police and mental health professionals collaborate, people with mental illness in crisis can access care more easily, police experience less trauma and stress and have an opportunity to make a bigger difference in the community. The preservation of life is and should always be our first priority.”

“I believe the ARRIVE Together initiative will be one more groundbreaking program for other agencies to follow,” said Pete J. Stilianessis, President of the State Troopers Non-Commissioned Officers Association. “The success of this program could change law enforcement as we know it today in a positive way. A trained mental health screener will allow Troopers to better respond to the problems we encounter on a daily basis, while still providing protection to the public we serve.”

Reverend Dr. Michael K. Keene., Senior Pastor of Trinity A.M.E Church said, “I am extremely grateful to be a part of this Pilot Program which will change how the public views and interacts with Law enforcement.   The ARRIVE Together program has the potential to save the lives of those who are suffering with a mental health, emotional, suicidal ideation, and those who are in a non-threatening crisis; also, reduce the tension which currently exists between Law Enforcement within the minority community.”

Beyond the ARRIVE Together Initiative, the Attorney General’s Office is working to ensure that 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 that individuals may experience, and suggested officer responses.  The purpose of the reference 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 State of New Jersey.

For more information on the Attorney General’s Office’s initiatives to improve outcomes for individuals suffering from mental illness, intellectual disabilities and disorders, substance abuse, and other behavioral health concerns, please visit www.njoag.gov/behavioralhealth.

The Acting Attorney General, Colonel Callahan, Reverend Boyer, and Prosecutor Webb-McRae will be discussing the ARRIVE Together Initiative, as well as mental health and policing more generally, today at 2:30 p.m. in a livestreamed event.  Watch here https://bit.ly/3oNtpyX