The South Orange Community Care and Justice Committee began accepting referrals from the South Orange Police Department last month to redirect emergency calls from police to social workers, officials said.
The CCJ’s outreach and community wellness team, which has already received several referrals from the police, intends to reduce the number of emergency calls directed to the police by dealing with those who would be better served by a social work intervention.
The team was put together with the help of the Social Service at Seton Hall. Outreach Team Director and Social Work Professor Kristin Miller said the team’s mission is “to engage community members in the design and journey of their own wellness journeys. “and” to provide services to oppressed, marginalized and vulnerable groups in our community. “
According to Miller, the outreach team is focused on appeals regarding mental health, substance use, domestic violence, sexual assault, homelessness and concerns of older adults.
“We want to infuse this work with social work values: the dignity and worth of each person, respect, social justice and empowerment,” Miller said.
According to Dr. Juan Rios, director of the University’s Master of Social Work program, referrals are made based on caller preference: the caller is asked if they would like to speak to the outreach program instead. police or rescue team. If so, a referral is sent to a team member, who then contacts the caller or their family and makes an appointment to speak with them.
Rios said the goal was to connect people in crisis to pre-existing resources.
“For example, if there is a problem with them accessing mental health services, we try to understand why and support them by going online,” Rios said. “Those calls that are due to misunderstanding or mental well-being usually go to the police, when it’s usually just conversation or empathy.”
One of the team’s goals is to see an increased number of referrals.
“It shows that people are more inclined to trust how resources work, so they use them more,” Rios said. “The problem exists all the time, whether we know it or not. “
So far, this pilot social work program consists of a small team, Miller said. Currently, the team members include two part-time staff, three interns and a few volunteers.
“We have a really fantastic team,” said Miller, “it’s really exciting so far.
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Miller and Rios both said they believe the program can continue to grow with more funding. According to Rios, more funding could lead to more transportation for callers who need it, and more workers who could be part of a full team that would focus on dispatching calls.
“Our long term goal is to really develop this into a program where we have full time social workers on staff, where we would potentially like to take referrals from community members in the future, and potentially be able to respond at the moment if there are certain crises where it would be more appropriate for a social worker to intervene if there is no serious violence, ”Miller said.
Rios said he hopes the outreach program receiving referrals will help build more authentic relationships in South Orange, Newark and other communities, and improve the culture of the community as a whole.
“The more we belong or feel we belong, the better our quality of life,” said Rios.
Emma Thumann can be contacted at [email protected].