Andrew McCurdy, Senior Counsel to the State Attorney General, said that mental health professionals are capable of making psychological screenings of the residents involved in mental health emergencies. He said that the program “improved the response” in Cumberland County. Arrive Together was extended to Elizabeth in Linden in 2022, producing what McCurdy called “favorable results.” The program will come to Bayonne during the coming month. McCurdy explained that the law enforcement-mental health teams will handle cases ranging from responding to those with suicidal thoughts to making welfare checks on people. McCurdy said that Governor Murphy has proposed $10 million for Arrive Together in the proposed state budget for the next fiscal year.
Hudson County Sheriff Frank Schillari said that he was “honored” to be part of a program that will “help somebody who can’t help themselves.” He cited what he referred to as a “mental health crisis on the rise.”
Dr. Ije Akunyili, Chief Medical Officer of the Jersey City Medical Center, said that the Arrive Together program could expect to deal with such issues as depression, schizophrenia, and missed medication. RWJ Barnabas Health is the program’s medical partner. The RWJ Barnabas network includes the Jersey City Medical Center and its Bayonne affiliate at 519 Broadway (24th Street).
Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis said that he was “thankful to the Governor and the Attorney General’s Office” for the program. He described Arrive Together as “a positive thing.” Mayor Davis said that he was “glad you chose Bayonne for the [Arrive Together] pilot program.”
County Commissioner Kenneth Kopacz, who also serves as an Assistant Superintendent of Schools, expressed the hope that Arrive Together would “help students and families.”
County Commissioner Anthony Romano said that a “collaborative effort” between “the Prosecutor, the Sheriff, the hospital, EMS,” and others would make the program work.
Bayonne Police Chief Robert Geisler said that the Bayonne Police Department “is proud to stand with our fellow agencies” in the Arrive Together program. He said, “It really is a group effort,” which, he predicted, will have “a positive impact.”
Rev. Dorothy Patterson, the pastor of Wallace Temple A.M.E. Zion Church, expressed the hope that the new program would provide for the “de-escalation” of situations involving law enforcement and the mentally ill. She expressed the hope that Arrive Together would enable people to “refocus,” providing “clarity for a confused state.” Rev. Patterson called for “relinquishing the stigma” that is often connected with mental illness so that people could get the help that is needed.
Bayonne Municipal Services Director Suzanne Cavanaugh said that “we need to take a different approach,” and that “we can’t just kick the can down the road.” Following the Coronavirus pandemic, Director Cavanaugh called for “rebuilding our public health infrastructure.” She said that “when a person in crisis needs help,” first responders should “be the help that they need.”
Twenty sheriff’s officers have been trained to deal with mental health situations. Protocols will be in place so that law enforcement officers will secure the scene where there is a call for service. Sheriff’s officers will be in plain clothes while they are with the mental health professionals. Participating officers will rotate into and out of the program each week. Arrive Together will be a pilot program in effect for an initial period of one year. Additional periods of service will depend on future funding.