By Joshua Rosario for The Jersey Journal

Published: May. 23, 2024

Jersey City Together is calling on Jersey City leaders to establish the mental health crisis response program that it has been promising for years.

The multi-faith advocacy group will host a commemorative service at Our Lady of Sorrows Church at 75 Claremont Ave., 10:30 a.m. to noon, in tribute to George Floyd, Najee Seabrooks, and Andrew Washington of Jersey City, who were all killed by police officers.

The need for a program that utilizes mental health professionals along with police officers in calls involving people experiencing mental health episodes became urgent in August 2023 after Washington was shot by police inside his apartment. Seabrooks was shot by Paterson police, and George Floyd died at the hands of police in Minnesota during an arrest.

Family members and some community groups say if that program had been in place last year, Washington would not have been shot dead.

In a post on its website, Jersey City Together says the city can and “should implement a crisis intervention team to handle such situations.”

A $4.2 million deal with Jersey City Medical Center to operate the program was rejected by the city council in November 2023, in part because the program — in which law enforcement would only be dispatched for scenes that are deemed unsafe — would only be in service eight hours a day, five days a week.

The program — first approved by the city council more than two years ago — sits in limbo as Councilmen Frank Gilmore, James Solomon and Daniel Rivera continue work on a new request for proposal (RFP). The councilmen had hoped to have something finalized by May 1.

Gilmore said things have been progressing, but “there is nothing concrete at this moment.” He said it has been difficult to formulate an RFP because they want to use the Arrive Program and run the city program to fill the void left by that program.

Gilmore said he hopes to see a new RFP approved by this summer.

“The biggest hold-up is just the complexity of what we are trying to do,” Gilmore said Wednesday. “We are trying to look at the funding that is available on the state level, i.e., the grants. Then we are trying to figure out the services the grants will be able to provide. How do we try to cover the deficiencies or shortfalls in those services with our RFP contract?”

The group has been working with city officials to find several funding sources for the city program, including the state Attorney General’s Office’s ARRIVE Together program, a pilot program that pairs mental health professionals with plain-clothed officers.

Funding could come from the bill named after Washington and Seabrooks, which approved $12 million to establish a community crisis response teams pilot program.


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