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Police Response to the Mentally Ill in Crisis: Must it be Life or Death?

Tuesday, February 23, 2021 11 Adar 5781

7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Oheb Shalom’s Social Justice Group, invites you to join us for our next virtual program on February 23, 2021: Police Response to the Mentally Ill in Crisis: Must it be Life or Death?

Did you know that . . . ?

  • People with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than other civilians approached or stopped by law enforcement, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center.
  • According to data collected by The Washington Post, around 1,000 people are shot and killed by the police in the U.S. each year, and Black men are more than twice as likely to be victims as white men. 

Three speakers will discuss recognizing a mental health crisis and steps necessary to de-escalate a police encounter:

  • Barbara Premeh, PhD will provide a statistical overview of untreated mental health sufferers in the US and discuss symptoms of psychosis, schizophrenia, autism and Alzheimer’s, as law enforcement becomes involved with these illnesses.
  • Captain Richard McDonald will discuss the training received by the West Orange Police Force in order to respond when an individual with mental illness is having  a psychiatric emergency.
  • The Mental Health Players will simulate a police officer receiving a phone call from a family member or neighbor observing someone in crisis.  The scene is designed to bring attention to problems that may arise when law enforcement is involved in issues around mental illness. The Mental Health Players will periodically stop the scene and take suggestions from the audience.  They will replay the scene based upon these suggestions.

Dr. Barbara Prempeh is a clinical psychologist and the co-developer and co-facilitator of a trauma focused curriculum for police officers and community members in Newark. She recently spoke on "Racism, Law Enforcement Reform, Police Brutality, and Black Lives Matter" at St Elizabeth University.  She is the Externship Program Coordinator of a doctoral level psychology training program at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, an Adjunct Professor at Kean University, and a consultant with Equal Justice, USA, which describes its vision as "safety, healing, and accountability that repairs."

Dr. Prempeh who also has degrees in forensic psychology and educational psychology, has worked for over 15 years with children, adolescents and families providing assessments, crisis intervention and therapy across multiple settings including schools, hospitals, community outpatient and inpatient centers, and juvenile correctional facilities. 

Captain Richard McDonald of the West Orange Police Department who oversees all in-service training for the WOPD. is the lead instructor for the training course "Police Response; De-Escalation Techniques for Individuals with Special Needs/ Mental Health Issues.

Working with trained clinicians from The Mental Health Associates of Morris & Essex County, all WOPD officers as well as WOFD firefighters participate in this program.  The training focuses on ethical decision making, procedural justice, understanding the use of force continuum, active resistance vs passive resistance, and numerous verbal de-escalation tactics.

The New Jersey Mental Health Players, a program of the Mental Health Association in NJ, uses real-life scenarios depicting mental health and substance use to educate and bring awareness to our communities.

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Tue, March 2 2021 18 Adar 5781