NEW JERSEY — Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin Monday announced that a new senior-level position has been established to develop innovative non-law enforcement, community-based responses to mental health emergencies, as well as to implement the statewide expansion of the Attorney General’s ARRIVE Together (Alternative Responses to Reduce Instances of Violence and Escalation) program.
Assistant Prosecutor Tiffany Wilson, of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, joins the Attorney General’s leadership team to serve as the inaugural director of the Attorney General’s new Office of Alternative and Community Responses. Wilson will develop new response models to behavioral and mental health needs of the community by working directly with law enforcement, community stakeholders, mental health professionals, and others, to provide alternative responses to mental health crises that do not rely on law enforcement involvement.
“For far too long, police across the nation have been called upon to be a cure-all, to solve various societal problems and assume roles well beyond that of law enforcement, sometimes without proper training or adequate resources,” Platkin said. “It is unfair to ask so much of our officers, and it also fails to acknowledge the needs of the communities we serve. By bringing on a seasoned public servant with a track record for being innovative in the area of criminal justice diversion and mental health services, we know we can develop new tools and methods to address the challenges faced in our communities. It is long overdue that we move beyond the existing one-size-fits-all approach and devise alternative paths to improve public safety and public health in New Jersey.”
“The Union County Prosecutor’s Office is proud to share Assistant Prosecutor Wilson with the Attorney General’s leadership team in order to further General Platkin’s statewide expansion of the ARRIVE Together program and the continued development of alternative law enforcement responses to mental health crises,” said Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel.
Union County, led by Prosecutor Daniel, was the second county where the ARRIVE program was piloted and the first to incorporate municipal police departments and build out a county-wide model. In June 2022, a pilot of ARRIVE run jointly by the Elizabeth and Linden Police Departments was introduced.
ARRIVE has been strongly supported by the Union County Commissioners, who embraced it as an innovative approach to diverting individuals with mental health issues from involvement with the criminal legal system. As a result, Union County currently has the largest number of municipal police departments participating in ARRIVE, including Berkeley Heights, Cranford, Elizabeth, Fanwood, Linden, Mountainside, New Providence, Plainfield, Scotch Plains, Roselle Park, and Westfield. The program also includes support from the Union County Police Department and Union County Sheriff’s Office.
The upcoming expansion of ARRIVE will bring the total number of law enforcement agencies involved in the program to over 40 municipalities across 9 counties. In most jurisdictions, mental health professionals accompany plainclothes officers in unmarked police vehicles to respond to 9-1-1 calls for service relating to mental or behavioral health emergencies, although each county may employ a slightly different framework. In addition to the co-responder model, ARRIVE provides telehealth services to individuals in crisis by providing a telehealth program in Atlantic City. ARRIVE also provides mental health professionals with funds to conduct follow-up visits to residents who have come in contact with law enforcement for mental health and behavioral health reasons. These follow-ups are completed without law enforcement and ensure that residents are receiving sufficient medical care, that they are following through with their medical prescriptions, and makes sure that residents receive necessary referral services for medical care, housing, education, and other needs.
Nine different health care providers around the state have signed on to dedicate their resources to work on this effort, which is designed to de-escalate situations and divert individuals in crisis away from law enforcement. Pilots in 5 additional counties are actively being designed and are scheduled to launch in the coming months.
During its pilot phase ARRIVE has shown positive and promising results. In Cumberland and Union counties, ARRIVE Teams have been responding to calls and following up with residents they have previously assisted for over a year. Both programs expanded to three days and added additional jurisdictions in this year. The teams of law enforcement officers and mental health screeners have made over 400 contacts with residents suffering from mental health disorders or co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders. During those interactions, there have been no injuries and no arrests involving the ARRIVE team’s response. Additionally, the responding teams have only applied force to effectuate involuntary transports of individuals, as ordered by the mental health professionals.
Governor Murphy in February proposed allocating $10 million in funding in his Fiscal Year 2024 budget to expand ARRIVE to the entire state, creating the first statewide law enforcement and mental health alternative response program in the country. The Office of the Attorney General is grateful for the incredible support this program has received from Governor Murphy and the Legislature noting that the $10 million appropriation was included in the budget signed last week.
Assistant Union County Prosecutor Tiffany Wilson, a veteran of the prosecutor’s office since 1998, currently supervises all of Union County’s diversionary programs that offer alternate approaches to traditional criminal justice solutions and incarceration, including the county’s Mental Health Jail Diversion, Recovery Court, Veterans Diversion, and Pre-Trial Intervention Programs. As the Director of the Pre-Indictment Division she has also overseen Union County’s ARRIVE program and worked to connect municipal police departments to mental health service providers, while also engaging and educating community members and leaders on the benefits of the program.
Wilson also has at least a decade of experience dealing with cases involving individuals with mental health challenges. Additionally, Wilson served for years as the supervisor of Union County’s Community Prosecution Unit, which organized and participated in events designed to build trust between residents and law enforcement and spearheaded community safety initiatives.