Atlantic City Police Department and JFS Receive Grant to Improve Public Safety and Health Outcomes
Posted on November 13, 2020
The Atlantic City Police Department (ACPD), in collaboration with Jewish Family Service of Atlantic & Cape May Counties (JFS), received a $740,576 grant from the Department of Justice (DOJ) to improve public safety responses and health outcomes for individuals with mental illness and/or substance abuse.
Since 2005, the AC Police Department and JFS have closely partnered to deliver justice involved services to people with mental illness. To further expand on the goal of providing services and programs to the city’s homeless population, especially those with mental illness or substance abuse, in 2012, JFS embedded a Case Manager with ACPD to support officers on daytime shifts. To use over a 36-month period, the DOJ grant will build on that program by filling the critical after-hours outreach gap and providing better equipment to officers and social workers so that they can deliver on-site support.
“Stories of police interactions with individuals who have mental illness continue to lead media headlines and this program combines the strengths of both the Atlantic City Police Department and Jewish Family Service to better serve the people of Atlantic City. JFS’ talented and knowledgeable team specialize in de-escalation, mental health treatment and responding in crisis. We are ready to collaborate in this program that will break down barriers and provide real time help to individuals with mental illness during police encounters,” said Andrea Steinberg, Chief Executive Officer of Jewish Family Service of Atlantic & Cape May Counties.
In the public safety sphere, last year, the AC Police Department received 714 calls for service specifically involving individuals with mental illness. In addition, statistics show there’s a strong prevalence of co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse amongst Atlantic City’s homeless population. In January 2019, a survey found 357 individuals were experiencing homelessness in Atlantic County. Of them, 162 were individuals with severe mental illness and 115 experiencing substance abuse.
“This federal grant will allow us to better serve those dealing with mental illness, substance abuse, and homelessness in Atlantic City,” said Interim Officer in Charge James Sarkos. “Each day, our officers encounter individuals that fall into at least one of these three categories. It is our duty to offer the necessary services that many others already have access to. Our partnership with JFS will allow us to do just that,” he added.
“The goal of my administration is to provide essential services to all of our community members,” said Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small, Sr. “This federal funding will allow the ACPD and JFS to better serve the City of Atlantic City. I applaud the commitment of these two community minded organizations to help those individuals who are in a mental health crisis, and this administration fully supports their efforts,” he added.
This innovative program implements real-time interaction between law enforcement and social workers. The multi-year, evidence-based partnership will incorporate nine months for a planning phase in partnership with Stockton University, and 27 months implementing the program. The collaborators will work to enhance the training and social interaction between all parties as well as help to get people out of the system and make productive members of society.