A collaboration in Stafford Township between police and mental health experts aims to supply new inroads to counseling to people with substance-abuse and psychological challenges. 

(Vin Ebenau, Townsquare Media)
Stafford Township Police Chief Thomas Dellane. (Vin Ebenau, Townsquare Media)

The idea for "On Point" has been almost 2 years in the making, and along the way a partnership between Ocean Mental Health Services and Stafford Township Police was born.

As Police Chief Thomas Dellane explains, the pilot program currently serves as a referral program.

"If one of our officers comes in contact with a person they believe could benefit from the service, they'll then make the referral," Dellane said. "Then the social worker will go out and follow that up. The bounds of this program are limitless at this point."

An example, Dellane added is when "a parent and child are having some sort of family argument," in which the skills of support professionals outweigh those of police.

Other types of scenarios included in this program are:

  • 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
  • Family discord, particularly involving juvenile-parent relations

Sometimes, after a situation is often diffused by an officer, it may require additional attention.

"There [are] a lot of barriers and issues right now with people being able to access services, such as long wait lines, or difficulty navigating the system," said On-Point program coordinator Meghan Corrigan.

If the smaller issues aren't handled right away, it may turn into a much larger one, she adds, and that's another focal point.

"That's what we're really looking to address, is not allow people to escalate to the point of being in some type of crisis where it's requiring a significant amount of police responses," said Corrigan.

With the unrelenting opioid and heroin epidemic in New Jersey, Corrigan adds substance abuse doesn't just affect the user.

"There [are] family, friends, and support systems struggling along with the addicted person," said Corrigan. "We're going to look, and really offer and provide support services and resources to them as well."

Long-term, Dellane hopes to expand the program from having social workers in house on Mondays and Thursdays, to every day, and with some additional funding he has lengthier goals in mind for Ocean County.

"One of the grants that we'd be applying for is more regional," said Dellane. "We anticipate if that's successful we'll be able to expand this program to Toms River, Manchester and possibly Brick Township."

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