Community Care & Justice Celebrates 1st Anniversary, Seeks Funds to Continue Efforts

by The Village Green
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From South Orange Village:

Village President Sheena Collum and Dr. Jamila T. Davis and Dr. Juan Rios of Seton Hall University celebrate the Social Justice Activation award recipient “Meet Her At The Gate”

The Township of South Orange Village is pleased to celebrate the one-year anniversary of its Community Care & Justice program launch. Over the next month, the Community Care & Justice team will host a Listen, Learn, and Share tour to further identify social service needs, share community wellness tips and trends, and seek donations to augment the pilot year program budget provided by the Township, the County of Essex, and Seton Hall University.

The Community Care & Justice (CC&J) program was initiated by South Orange Village President Sheena Collum and seeks to “reimagine” traditional models of public safety through the larger lens of community wellness, with a greater emphasis on crisis prevention and first responder referrals to mental health professionals and social service providers. The program is overseen by Trustee Donna Coallier, Chair of the Village’s Health and Public Safety Committee, and led by Program Director Jayme Ganey, MA, LPC. 

“Our timing could not have been better,” said Village President Collum. “So many are feeling distress, whether from the ongoing impact of the pandemic or the racial trauma that peaked into urgent demand for action and police reform after the murder of George Floyd. It’s a work in progress and the success of the pilot year is a true testament to community engagement, buy-in from law enforcement professionals and our collective desire to learn and adapt to the needs of people in and around our Village.”

Over the course of 2021, the CC&J team focused on engaging in community conversations and networking, building a data analysis and research infrastructure, deploying a survey to collect resident input, analyzing available first responder data, and designing outreach program policies and procedures. The CC&J network now comprises first responders, school resources, neighboring municipalities, community organizations, mental wellness and education organizations, and academic institutions with social justice initiatives. 

CC&J Outreach officially began receiving referrals on October 18, 2021. To help first responders to make referrals and better serve the community, the Outreach Team provides mental health awareness training to the South Orange Police Department and the South Orange Rescue Squad. Referral follow-up includes supportive counseling and case management services for those impacted by issues such as mental health crisis, racial trauma, substance use, domestic violence, sexual assault, homelessness, and more. CC&J Outreach also has scheduled “office hours” at police headquarters where they are able to speak with officers about mental health concerns and collaborate on the referral program. 

“Our outreach program is a key priority for 2022,” said Trustee Coallier. “Right now, law enforcement professionals and Emergency Medical Technicians are referring those that might benefit from social work service to our Outreach Team. We’d like to build this initial crisis response into on the scene support as we gain more experience and strengthen our funding sources.”

CC&J educational programming covers a broad mental health and wellness spectrum ranging from anxiety and depression awareness to addressing racial trauma and bias. Initiatives have included a wellness series launch offering youth anxiety management, suicide prevention and other relevant mental health topics along with several collaborations with Seton Hall University including an 8-week Social Justice Activation collaboration led by Dr. Jamila T. Davis and Dr. Juan Rios of who guided participants through a social services development curriculum and awarding two teams with seed money to implement community-based services. Other Seton Hall collaborations included the Peace and Community Justice speaker series featured civil rights icon Dr. Bernard LaFayette, Jr. in conversation with community youth activists and an immersive virtual reality platform through which a participant can “embody” an avatar encountering racism.

“I’m in awe of all the accomplishments in just one short year,” said Jayme Ganey who was hired in December to lead the program. “I am deeply grateful to be in this new and exciting role and working with an amazing team of professionals and volunteers to advance our mission and program goals.

The full 2021CC&J Year in Review can be found on the Village website:

Those who would like to make a tax-deductible donation to Community Care & Justice can make out a check to the Township of South Orange Village with “Community Care & Justice” indicated in the memo, and mail it to South Orange Village at 76 South Orange Avenue, South Orange, New Jersey, 07079.

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