Stockton Partners on Atlantic City Policing Grant
Atlantic City, N.J. – Stockton University is collaborating with the Atlantic City Police Department (ACPD) and Jewish Family Service of Atlantic & Cape May Counties (JFS), to implement and evaluate a $740,576 grant from the Department of Justice (DOJ) to improve public safety responses and health outcomes for individuals with mental illness and/or substance abuse.
The 36-month grant was announced at a press conference at Stockton’s John F. Scarpa Academic Center in Atlantic City on Nov. 13.
This innovative program implements real-time interaction between law enforcement and social workers. The multi-year, evidence-based partnership will incorporate nine months for a planning phase in partnership with Stockton University, and 27 months implementing the program. The collaborators will work to enhance the training and social interaction between all parties as well as help to get people out of the system and make productive members of society.
“As a member of the Atlantic County Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Steering Committee. I am delighted to be involved in this important work,” said Stockton Professor of Criminal Justice Christine Tartaro, who will coordinate the program evaluation component of the project. “I have always wanted there to be 24-hour mental health support for police calls for service in Atlantic City. This program has the potential to help us divert people away from the criminal justice system and into more appropriate mental health treatment.”
Since 2005, the A.C. Police Department and JFS have closely partnered to deliver justice involved services to people with mental illness. To further expand on the goal of providing services and programs to the city’s homeless population, especially those with mental illness or substance abuse, in 2012, JFS embedded a Case Manager with ACPD to support officers on daytime shifts. The DOJ grant will build on that program by filling the critical after-hours outreach gap and providing better equipment to officers and social workers so that they can deliver on-site support.
“Stories of police interactions with individuals who have mental illness continue to lead media headlines and this program combines the strengths of both the Atlantic City Police Department and Jewish Family Service to better serve the people of Atlantic City. JFS’ talented and knowledgeable team specializes in de-escalation, mental health treatment and responding in crisis. We are ready to collaborate in this program that will break down barriers and provide real time help to individuals with mental illness during police encounters,” said Andrea Steinberg, Chief Executive Officer of Jewish Family Service of Atlantic & Cape May Counties.
Last year, the Atlantic City Police Department received 714 calls for service specifically involving individuals with mental illness. In addition, statistics show there’s a strong prevalence of co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse amongst Atlantic City’s homeless population. In January 2019, a survey found 357 individuals were experiencing homelessness in Atlantic County. Of them, 162 were individuals with severe mental illness and 115 experiencing substance abuse.
“This federal grant will allow us to better serve those dealing with mental illness, substance abuse, and homelessness in Atlantic City,” said Interim Officer in Charge James Sarkos. “Each day, our officers encounter individuals that fall into at least one of these three categories. It is our duty to offer the necessary services that many others already have access to. Our partnership with JFS will allow us to do just that,” he added.