MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The Maplewood Community Board on Policing reviewed three models for how the township could further incorporate social workers into the police department at its meeting on Wednesday.
Each model addresses how the Maplewood Police Department responds to calls where someone is having a mental health crisis; this is including but not limited to domestic violence, substance abuse, homelessness and threats of self harm.
Model 1 would have the social worker embedded with the police department instead of an EMS unit.
Model 2 would have a social worker embedded with an EMS unit that is called to the scene. Police would also be called however, like with a fire or a heart attack, they would be securing the scene rather than actively responding to the crisis.
Model 3 takes more of a proactive approach to mental health so that there are no emergency calls made in the first place.
After a discussion, the consensus of 10 voting and 1 non-voting board members was that a combination of models 2 and 3 was best. Half of the board voted for the combination model while the other half split their vote between models 2 and 3 exclusively. Model 1 received no votes.
“It seemed like consistently in the conversation, everyone felt that model three was a very good long term goal. But we needed the combination of preventative, reactive, responsive and preventative care. So like a hybrid approach,” said Board Chair Erin Scherzer.
This vote was not a final decision on which model would be implemented. The board will continue to research and deliberate before making a recommendation to the Township Committee which course of action would be the best for Maplewood. Scherzer also noted that should the Township Committee decline to accept a combination of two models as an option, then the board would come back and hold a two option vote.
“I think all three models are better than what we have now,” said Deputy Chief of Police Albert Sally. “…but speaking to the officers, they would like to have a professional on scene and make some decisions as to deescalate.”
Deputy Chief Sally mentioned that under the current system officers can sometimes wait two to three hours for a social worker to respond to a scene. The future of the social work plan will be discussed at the next Township Committee meeting on October 20.
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