STAFFORD, NJ - On Thursday, September 15, at the Ocean Acres Community Center, Chief Thomas Dellane announced the new pilot program the Stafford Township Police Department will begin implementing. The innovative new program “On Point” will put a licensed clinical social worker at the police department to work alongside the officers and assist them in dealing with certain crisis situations in our community.

Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato and Stafford Township Mayor John Spodofora were in attendance and also spoke at the press conference.

Chief Dellane said that, “this pilot program arose out of a concern that our officers are oftentimes dispatched to a crisis that may not be criminal in nature and although they are able to diffuse the situation, they do not have the level of training necessary to effectively address the underlying cause of the crisis.” He continued, “as a result, the crisis often will re-occur and at times escalate causing our officers to spend additional time diffusing these incidents and taking them away from other possible criminal situations.”

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Since arresting the person may not be the best answer, the police department believes that a collaboration with the Ocean Mental Health Services will provide the ability to better address and assist those with mental health issues and substance abuse through this program.

“The trend of emergency calls the police department receives in our community are related to mental health and substance abuse issues,” Chief Dellane expressed, “this program is very important to me because this would help prevent deaths in our community and prevent police from having to make a tough decision on the job and having to live with it.”

Due to the inability to secure funding to start this program these past two years, Ocean Mental Health Services believe so highly in the program that they will be self-funding the majority of the program costs until June 15, 2017. Stafford Police has been working with Senator Cory Booker and Congressman Tom MacArthur’s office and they have identified several promising grant funding opportunities in the future for the program to be able to continue after June 15, 2017.

The program will involve the officers making referrals to the trained social worker so they can follow up with the individuals. The social worker will be on-duty at the Stafford Township Police Headquarters every Monday and Thursday. Chief Dellane said, “the goal is to have a social worker there 5-7 days a week in the future when more funding becomes available.”

The types of cases they anticipate focusing on include, but are not limited to:

  • Mental health issues with follow up to include available programs and treatment

  • Substance abuse issues with follow up to include available programs and treatment

  • Economic hardship with referral to appropriate social services agencies

  • Isolation particularly of senior citizens

  • Health disparities

  • Familial discord particularly involving juvenile and parent relations

The goals of the program are to:

  • Work collaboratively with the police department and its officers providing support through utilization of resources to reduce recidivism

  • Assess the unmet social service needs of individuals with mental health and/or substance abuse issues

  • Coordinate with social service providers, familial and social support

  • Identify community resources that will creatively address the needs of those served by this program

  • Provide early intervention services in order to avoid future crisis and involvement of law enforcement

  • Decrease the use of emergency and acute services such as hospital emergency departments

  • Offer consultation and education to officers within the police department

  • Maintain ongoing data and assessment for the purpose of evaluating pilot program effectiveness

“To the best of our knowledge, there are no other programs of this type in the state of NJ,” Chief Dellane said, “In fact, our research has shown that very few collaborative programs between Law Enforcement and Mental Health Providers exist nationally.”

Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato applauded the Stafford Police Department for their “viewpoint and ability to implement this program.” He said the program is “progressive”, “the new face of law enforcement,” and a “win-win for all involved.”

Stafford Township Mayor John Spodofora thanked Chief Dellane and all of Stafford Police. He stated that “the Stafford Police are the best around and truly care for the community.”

“I hope to report to you shortly of the success of the program,” Chief Dellane said at the conclusion of the press conference.