Not all police in New Jersey are trained on how to handle individuals with mental health issues, and that can spell trouble in extremely tense situations. So new legislation, introduced this week in Trenton, would require such a training curriculum for all officers.
Under the measure from Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Mount Laurel), the state would be required to adopt a training curriculum for law enforcement personnel that addresses how to handle interactions with people who have a mental illness, a substance abuse issue or both.
The state would also be allowed to endorse a curriculum if a municipality already has a solid system in place.
“Dealing with folks who have behavioral health challenges, especially in a very tense environment, takes a level of sensitivity and training,” Singleton told New Jersey 101.5. “I firmly believe that advanced training helps make our police officers, who do herculean efforts, better prepared to address those very complex situations.”
The training curriculum would include information on deescalation, suicide prevention and the recognition of mental illness symptoms.
The bill also aims to strengthen the standards for determining whether outpatient treatment is the appropriate approach for mentally-ill individuals who are involuntarily committed. It expands the criteria that health care personnel would need to consider before making a decision.
“We think right now there are gaps in that process, and we think it needs to have more clarity,” Singleton said. “By clarifying the law on involuntary commitment, this legislation will allow more New Jersey residents to receive the appropriate kind of help.”