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N.J. governor signs law establishing pilot program, advisory council for LE mental health response

“In times of need, we want to do everything we can to protect those in crisis and get them timely help and health,” Gov. Phil Murphy said

New Jersey State House

The New Jersey State House in Trenton, N.J., Monday, Aug. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Matt Rourke/AP

By Joanna Putman

TRENTON, N.J. — In a move aimed at bettering response to mental health crises, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has signed the Seabrooks-Washington Community-Led Crisis Response Act into law, a news release from the governor’s office states.

The new law establishes a Community Crisis Response Advisory Council and a pilot program aimed at improving how law enforcement and mental health professionals respond to such crises, according to the release.

The bill is part of several crisis response initiatives. It works with other innovative responder models like the ARRIVE Together and 9-8-8 mobile response programs to handle cases involving those in mental distress and ensure the safety of law enforcement officers and mental health professionals.

“Community crisis response teams can prevent a situation from escalating into violence, by knowing how to address a person’s mental health needs in times of crisis,” Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson. “Their adept understanding of addressing individuals’ mental health needs will bridge a gap that has existed for far too long when responding to emergencies, steering us away from the path of violence towards a future where every life is valued and protected.”

The law provides $12 million for the pilot program’s implementation, focusing on six counties: Camden, Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex and Passaic. The pilot program will allow community-based organizations to operate crisis response teams, according to the release.

The duties of these teams will include offering expert, localized interventions to the community. These services will include outreach, de-escalation, stabilization, linking individuals to resources and providing follow-up support for those undergoing a behavioral health crisis.
The new advisory council will be made up of 13 members, including the attorney general and seven public members appointed by the governor. The council is set to hold its first public meeting within 45 days of the bill’s enactment.

Murphy stressed the importance of this initiative, saying, “In times of need, we want to do everything we can to protect those in crisis and get them timely help and health.”