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The City of Perth Amboy is honored to be a grant recipient of the United States Bureau of Justice Assistance for $550,000 through the Connect and Protect Law Enforcement Behavioral Health Response Program.

Mental illness is considered an acute or chronic and diagnosable condition affecting an individual’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being and behavior. These conditions include depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and mood or personality disorders. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health conditions have been exacerbated. From September 29 to October 11, 2021, 28.6% of adults in New Jersey reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder. Over the past year, the Perth Amboy Police Department (PAPD) has received hundreds of EDP (Emotionally Disturbed Persons) calls. From May 24, 2021, to May 24, 2022, there were 609 EDP calls, averaging 51 calls per month. 

The City is dedicated to providing services that will strengthen mental health awareness and community-related response calls while promoting treatment and recovery. As such, the City will implement a co-responder model as a collaborative effort between the City Administration, Perth Amboy Police Department (PAPD), and a Mental Health Association (MHA). The program aims to implement effective local law enforcement strategies to identify and reduce the risk of harm to individuals with mental health disorders or co-occurring mental health and substance use conditions, with evidence-based interventions to reduce recidivism.

A co-responder model is a critical tool for law enforcement when responding to people in a mental health crisis. With the combined knowledge and experience of police officers and mental health professionals, it links individuals with mental illnesses to appropriate services or provides other effective and efficient responses. This model provides officers with the resources necessary to respond to calls effectively and safely involving people in a mental health crisis. They can immediately meet the need of that person by providing on-scene crisis de-escalation, screening and assessments, and referrals to ongoing treatment by a mental health professional. This method has proven effective in various jurisdictions throughout the country, with reduced use of force, decreased arrests, decreased hospitalization/ER visits, and reduced officer time on scene. Communities with these models are also more likely to transport people to mental health treatment programs and resolve incidents informally and without arrest than officers in communities without. The PAPD and the mental health agency will effectively co-respond to calls. At the same time, it will also provide training, conduct after-action reviews, implement a full-time, on-site mental health professional program, and, most importantly, enhance PAPD efforts with experimental knowledge beyond the project period.