BRIDGEWATER, NJ - A social program previously touted by then councilman Matthew Moench may be getting a new local lease on life two years later.
The On P.O.I.N.T. program, which was first championed by Moench in late 2018, was discussed again by the now-mayor at the July 21 meeting of the Bridgewater Township Council. He said he had worked with representatives from Stafford Township in Ocean County regarding On P.O.I.N.T., which utilizes social workers to assist individuals who may be mentally ill, addicted to drugs or trapped in domestic situations, rather than have them deal solely with police officers.
“Police usually know the people who need help,” said Moench.
Stafford Township Mayor John Spodofora, Stafford Township Police Chief Thomas Dellane and On P.O.I.N.T. Coordinator Meghan Corrigan appeared before the Bridgewater council in September 2018 to discuss On P.O.I.N.T., which stands for Proactive Outreach in Needs and Treatment. The voluntary program partnered Ocean Mental Health Services with the Stafford Township Police Department, and twice a week provided on-site social workers to assist Stafford Township police officers.
Stafford Township officials said at the time that On P.O.I.N.T. had been initiated to address the high volume of calls and incidents concerning mental health, substance abuse and social services that would otherwise take up a great deal of time for police officers and other emergency responders. They also said that the purpose of the program is to apply social workers to situations so they can determine why repeat calls are being made to police, be they for drug abuse, mental health issues or domestic disputes.
The program also provides follow-through action.
Corrigan told the council in 2018 that police officers did listen to individuals who were having difficulties, but that those patrons didn’t necessarily follow up themselves with treatment options, including medications or appointments, especially when they had little money or no viable means of transportation. On P.O.I.N.T. helps to provide assistance in such areas.
Moench said in July that Bridgewater’s previous administration had not been interested in pursuing the On P.O.I.N.T. program. He said he was “thrilled” to be able to pursue it now, although he added that there had not been an opportunity to include it in this year’s municipal budget, which had suffered from the loss of some $2 million in revenue due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Moench said there is more to come regarding On P.O.I.N.T, and that he will work with Bridgewater Township Police Chief Paul Payne, and Somerset County, to implement the program locally in the future.