Community Care and Justice
South Orange is partnering with Essex County and Seton Hall University to create and launch a social work pilot called the Community Care & Justice Program. The CC&J mission: to engage community members in designing and traveling their own wellness journeys, with a particular focus on protecting and elevating our most vulnerable members and our youth. CC&J might include 911 Diversion, Restorative Practice Councils, dialogue on How To Be An Anti-Racist, Community and First Responder Mental Health Awareness Training and more.
We have launched a survey to identify CC&J priorities and we need your eyes and ears and input!
What values should drive our program? Where do you see a need for social work? How can we empower our community members to improve their mental health and wellness? How can we supplement Village law enforcement services to improve public safety in our community? Please take some time to complete our CC&J survey, which you can access using the Qualtrics link below, and please spread the word to your friends and neighbors. For your information, the letter of solicitation linked below provides an overview of the survey process. Thank you in advance for your commitment to CC&J.
(October 2021) Social Work Outreach Team Starts Accepting Referrals from South Orange Police, Rescue Squad
The Outreach Team of the Community Care & Justice program officially began receiving referrals from the South Orange Police Department and Rescue Squad on Monday, October 18.
The Community Care & Justice program was initiated by South Orange Village President Sheena Collum and is a collaboration between the South Orange community, Seton Hall University and Essex County. The initiative seeks to "reimagine" traditional models of law enforcement through the larger lens of public safety and wellness with a greater emphasis on crisis prevention. To that end, Community Care & Justice seeks to engage the whole community – residents, first responders and newly hired social work professionals – in a more proactive, preventative, and collective approach to mental health and wellness and public health and safety. The program is led by Trustee Donna Coallier, chair of the Village's Health and Public Safety Committee, and Dr. Juan Rios, Director of Seton Hall University's Master of Social Work program.
Starting October 18, the Community Care & Justice Outreach Team is providing supportive counseling and case management services to community members impacted by issues such as mental health, substance use, domestic violence, sexual assault, homelessness and elder concerns.
Once a referral is received from Village first responders, the social work team will outreach to the individual and/or family, conduct an assessment, and connect them with various supportive services and resources within South Orange and, more broadly, Essex County and the state.
“We’re extremely excited to get started on this aspect of our community outreach,” said Kristin Miller, a professor in the Social Work Department at Seton Hall University and director of Outreach and Community Wellness for the Community Care & Justice program. “In many instances the police and rescue squad are called upon to address issues that present as acute and emergent, but are in many ways deep-seated, systemic and long-term. Issues such as mental health, substance use, homelessness, sexual assault and domestic violence are often better served by addressing these matters in a way that gets to the root of the problem and offers care and resources for underlying issues, not just currently manifest symptoms.” She continued, “Social work training provides us with the knowledge and expertise to more effectively address certain issues in the community. Our team will infuse social work values into our service to community members; these values include social justice, the importance of human relationships and the dignity and worth of each person.”
In addition to Kristin Miller, LCSW and Assistant Director of Community Care & Justice Megan O’Brien, MSW, the Outreach Team includes three social work interns: Christina May (New York University), Monica Doliscat (Rutgers) and Krystal Halim from Seton Hall University.
“In many ways, October 18 marks another beginning for Community Care & Justice after months of planning, focus groups and community outreach for needs assessment,” said Coallier. “The first iteration of our Social Justice Certificate program began at Seton Hall a few weeks ago. That program brings members of the community and surrounding communities together with police officers and credible messengers ‘to learn from each other and empower its participants as stakeholders and changemakers in search of social justice and equity.’ So, although the Outreach Team will initially consist of two part-time social workers and three interns and can focus solely on referrals from first responders, we plan on ultimately expanding our Team and these services and will eventually accept referrals from other organizations as well as community members themselves.”
Community Care & Justice Liaisons in South Orange Police Department and Rescue Squad
The program has the support of the South Orange Police Department as well as the Rescue Squad.
Among the rescue squad, four members have volunteered to function as liaisons to the Community Care & Justice program and will function as a key partner to the program through referrals and support.
Chief Victor Rothstein and Deputy Chief Annie Carman of the South Orange Rescue Squad will function as primary points of contact and liaisons for the Community Care & Justice program.
"The Rescue Squad is very excited to be a part of this outreach,” said South Orange Rescue Squad Chief Victor Rothstein. “What EMS offers patients is essentially a bandaid fix in most cases, a stabilization of acute illness and injury until we can get the patient to a hospital. Although our EMTs are considered some of the most capable in the state, many times patients need long term assistance that we do not and cannot provide. In fact, frequently we get called to individuals who don’t actually need medical attention per se, but still need some form of professional help or access to resources. In these cases, the social workers that the CC&J program provides will make more of a difference than any ambulance or hospital could. We have been hoping for a program like this for a very long time and the Community Care & Justice Outreach Team is major progress in ensuring the residents of South Orange can survive – and thrive.”
Among the South Orange Police Department, four officers have volunteered to be liaisons to the Community Care & Justice program and are expected to be instrumental in aligning the department with the Outreach Team through referrals, support and, if need be, assistance.
The police officers who have volunteered to work with the Community Care & Justice program are: Lieutenant Ernesto Morillo; Sergeant John Niedzinski; Sergeant Richard Lombardi; and Captain Stephen Dolinac, who is Acting Chief of Police in South Orange.
“The South Orange Police Department is exceedingly pleased to be a part of this program, which gives us the opportunity to partner with social workers and other dedicated community members and truly improve the services we deliver in ways that go beyond traditional law enforcement,” said Captain Dolinac. “Perhaps not surprisingly, the research to date on policing in this manner shows real efficacy.
Simply put, we’ll be addressing systemic problems experienced by members of the community with systemic solutions. And we believe there are real savings to be had through utilizing this approach – savings in lives, quality of life – and resources.” He continued, “Ultimately, we’d like to get to the point where we’re able to pinpoint need and bring resources to our residents before crisis, especially for our youth.”
Lieutenant Ernesto Morillo agreed, “This is a new day in policing and South Orange is prepared to meet these challenges if not lead the way. The overwhelming majority of our calls are not about ‘fighting crime,’ but about responding to crisis and ensuring the well-being of our community members. I have great faith that my officers meet these challenges with courtesy, professionalism and a commitment to serve and protect. But in order to do this job correctly – to serve the public well being in the best way possible – we need to use all of the tools at our disposal – and committed social workers and community interventions can be a highly effective tool for delivering the hope, help and resources that people need. He continued, “If contact with police is limited to enforcement and addressing conflict, then many in the community will view police as an oppressive force and not as the providers of what most of our interactions actually deal with, which is community caretaking. Of course, officers will address conflict and enforcement as required, but we must do more to engage the community in a positive way and cultivate the trust that our citizens should have in us to take care of our community together.”
(Friday, October 8, 2021)NBA Star Allan Houston Brings FISLL to Seton Hall
Former NBA superstar and Olympic gold medalist Allan Houston will be bringing his leadership mentoring program that emphasizes Faith, Integrity, Sacrifice, Leadership and Legacy (FISLL) to Seton Hall.
Part of the The Allan Houston Legacy Foundation, FISLL enjoys an exclusive partnership with the NBA and the FISLL Project focuses on "Youth Voice and Leadership cultivation, combining the model of leadership teaching and restorative behavioral science with mentorship, character development, media content, events, and programming."
The Community Care and Justice initiative has joined together with The FISLL Project, the Village of South Orange, the City of Newark and its Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery, The H.U.B.B (Helping us Become Better) and Seton Hall to bring this leadership mentoring program to Newark police officers, South Orange police officers and youth from both Newark and South Orange.
Through FISLL, Houston utilizes his sports philosophy combined with his dedication to servant leadership to empower participants to create social impact by coming together. The program's ultimate goal is to empower cities, entities and organizations to create compassionate collaborative communities and cultivate servant leaders.
"This is an opportunity for us all to sit down as human beings and find a way – lead a way – to common ground," said Professor Juan Rios, co-director of Community Care & Justice and director of the graduate social work program at Seton Hall. "Cops and kids, profs and credible messengers from the community – we all have a part to play in the solution. And Allan Houston's program – emphasizing faith, integrity, sacrifice, leadership and legacy – lays the groundwork."
LaKeesha Eure, LCSW and director of the Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery, agreed: "The FISLL program is a perfect complement to the holistic approach to community wellness we have taken in Newark. Systemic problems require systemic solutions. And in integrating all aspects of the community – police and citizens, academics and community practitioners, government officials, businesses and private organizations, the young and old – we are better able to come to real answers that work for real people in the real world. I believe FISLL has the power to be the next piece in that puzzle for the City of Newark."
Participating in the event will be:
- Dean Georita M. Frierson, College of Arts & Sciences at Seton Hall University
- Donna Coallier, Village Trustee, South Orange Village
- Lakeesha Eure, Director of the Office of Violence Prevention & Trauma Recovery
- Ernesto Morillo, Lieutenant, South Orange Police Department
- Professor Thomas Shea, Director of the Police Graduate Studies Program at Seton Hall University
- Al-Tariq Best, CEO/Founder of The HUBB Arts & Trauma Center
- Professor Charles Grantham, Director of the Center for Sport Management at Seton Hall and former Executive Director of the NBA Players Association
- Dennis Carter, Executive Director Allan Houston Legacy Foundation
- Allan Houston, Olympic Gold Medalist, Two-Time NBA All-Star and FISLL Founder
(September 2021) Community Care & Justice Previews Virtual Reality ‘1000 Cut Journey’ for Students, Faculty and Police
As part of his work with the South Orange Community Care & Justice program, Social Work Professor Juan Rios of Seton Hall hosted a virtual reality showcase and preview for professors, students and local police at Space 154, the University’s digital creation lab.
The Community Care & Justice initiative is a collaboration between Seton Hall, South Orange and Essex County designed to “reimagine” traditional models of law enforcement through the larger lens of public safety and wellness with a greater emphasis on crisis prevention. The program is led by Trustee Donna Coallier, chair of the Village’s Health and Public Safety Committee, and Professor Juan Rios, Director of Seton Hall University’s Master of Social Work program.
At the screening, Professor Rios featured the virtual reality program “1000 Cut Journey,” which “uses immersive virtual reality (IVR) to create a ‘virtual shoes’ experience through which a participant can viscerally embody an avatar who encounters various forms of racism,” according to the Cogburn Research Group of the Columbia University School of Social Work, which developed the program along with Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab.
In “1000 Cuts,” participants embody a Black male, Michael Sterling, experiencing racism as a small child through disciplinary action in the classroom, as an adolescent encountering the police, and as a young adult experiencing workplace discrimination.
“This virtual reality program is a tool intended to increase empathy and decrease implicit bias,” said Rios. “For social workers and police officers, empathy can be a core component of successful case and incident management. By bringing this group together today we received substantive, positive feedback on its efficacy for both students and first responders. We’ll be utilizing this program going forward.”
Trustee Coallier added, “We need to deploy every tool at our disposal to address implicit bias. This technology coupled with understanding the real experiences of our community members shows tremendous promise in helping build more empathy on an individual, deeply personal level. An important tool in anyone’s arsenal and one we plan to make great use of through Community Care & Justice.”
Participating in the preview were Rev. Dr. Forrest Pritchett, director of The Martin Luther King Leadership Program at Seton Hall; Sergeant John Niedzinski of the South Orange Police Department; Megan O’Brien, a recent graduate of the SHU MSW program and assistant director of the Community Care & Justice Program; Brothers Rafael Vargas ’16 and Reegan Lidet of the Salesians of Don Bosco, who have both just entered the Masters of Social Work program at Seton Hall.
The preview was facilitated by Alex Pilaia ’08 of TLTC.
Reverend Dr. Pritchett was the first to undergo the “1000 Cut Journey” and thought the experience could prove helpful for some. “I’ve lived this in real life, 3D,” he said. “So, in some ways the virtual reality experience felt one dimensional. But for some people I think this tool can be very useful: one dimension is better than none, and a step in the right direction.”
Sergeant John Niedzinski, a self-described “weathered officer” who, as a supervisor, helps train SOPD officers, agreed. “I can see this being useful for some officers. It allows you in a sense to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and I think it can give some officers, especially younger officers, a better grounding in the perspective and experience of some of our community members.”
Sergeant Niedzinski also noted that he thought the technology could be extremely useful for members of the community if a program could be devised to allow people to experience what it is like to be a police officer involved in a traffic stop or responding to a domestic violence call. “It would be great for people to have a better understanding of what it’s like to be a police officer – just as it would be great for police officers to have a better idea of what it’s like on the other side of the dispatch.”
Brother Reegan Ledet is a graduate of the University of North Texas who recently took his first vows as a Salesian of Don Bosco, a worldwide organization founded by St. John Bosco which is the second largest Catholic religious order in the world.
He comes to brotherhood and his desire to become a social worker after having taught high school.
“It was distressing, off-putting and very confusing to me,” said Ledet, who is white. “When it started out in what I imagine was either a pre-k or kindergarden class I couldn’t understand why I was left playing alone. And when I smiled and put out my hand to shake and said ‘Hi, I’m Michael,’ no one responded. I was just left there hanging – and alone – asking ‘Why won’t you shake my hand.’ I actually had a physical response – a little bit of a chill.”
Ledet then asked, “How many times does a young boy hold out his hand, rejected, before he just stops trying?”
Rafael Vargas, who has just taken his final vows as a Salesian Brother, had a similar experience. “I was confused,” he said. “I grew up in a mixed community but have never been stopped by a cop. I didn’t know what to do when the police officers in the virtual program told me to stop and get down on the ground. It was intimidating. I felt like I had no voice.
Megan O’Brien, assistant director of the Community Care & Justice Program, experiencing "1000 Cut Journey,” an immersive virtual reality experience wherein participants embody a Black male, Michael Sterling, experiencing racism as a small child through disciplinary action in the classroom, as an adolescent encountering the police, and as a young adult experiencing workplace discrimination.
Rev. Dr. Forrest Pritchett, director of The Martin Luther King Leadership Program at Seton Hall, experiencing the "1000 Cut Journey" along with Professor Juan Rios, director of Seton Hall University’s Master of Social Work program and co-director of the South Orange Community Care & Justice Program.
Sergeant John Niedzinski of the South Orange Police Department; Megan O’Brien, assistant director of the Community Care & Justice Program; and Professor Juan Rios discussing "1000 Cut Journey."
(Summer 2021) Social Work Professor to Lead Community Outreach and Wellness in South Orange
Kristin Miller, a professor in the Social Work Department at Seton Hall University, has joined the South Orange Community Care & Justice program as Director of Outreach and Community Wellness.
Miller, who has lived in South Orange for nearly 20 years, will work with clinicians and students at Seton Hall as well as community volunteers and organizations and the South Orange Police Department in coordinating social work, mental health and substance misuse services to local residents.
As part of her duties, Miller will also design policy and programming for the Wellness Outreach initiative as well as a strategic calendar of community Wellness trainings and a mental health resource guide. She will provide supervision to staff and volunteers and outreach and case management support to community members while working with police to leverage research and strategize prevention.
A Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Miller created and teaches Trauma-Informed Social Work Practice at Seton Hall and says she is “committed to helping individuals heal, grow, and reach their full potential,” and especially committed to “promoting social justice, especially as related to racism and race-based trauma.”
“The Community Care & Justice program will help align the various service structures within the town and the county to more effectively serve the needs of the people,” said Miller. “In looking through the numbers, it becomes apparent that the Village is engaged at times in what is often referred to as ‘wrong pocket’ problems – with police responding repeatedly to calls of a nature that lend themselves more readily to housing, social work, substance misuse and counseling professionals addressing systemic issues in a systemic way.”
The Community Care & Justice program was initiated by South Orange Village President Sheena Collum and is a collaboration between the South Orange community, Seton Hall University and Essex County. The initiative seeks to “reimagine” traditional models of law enforcement through the larger lens of public safety and wellness with a greater emphasis on crisis prevention. The program is led by Trustee Donna Coallier, chair of the Village’s Health and Public Safety Committee, and Dr. Juan Rios, Director of Seton Hall University’s Master of Social Work program.
“We’re honored and pleased to have Kristin Miller on board as part of the Community Care & Justice program,” said Professor Rios. “As we’re coming to the final stages of our assessment of community needs here in South Orange, we’re getting ready to roll out with ‘boots on the ground.’ And her experience as a clinical supervisor, therapist, professor and a trainer of trainers will allow us to offer our residents a fuller spectrum of mental health and wellness options.”
Trustee Coallier agreed, “Addressing public safety concerns with wellness programs can benefit everyone. Those in need receive services better suited to their circumstances, delivered with the right professional credentials. Our taxpayers are not left paying for recurring ‘emergency’ services to treat ailments that are better addressed proactively. Here in South Orange, we're committed to aligning our public safety and wellness spend with the ‘right’ pockets – and Kristin Miller coming on board as Community Outreach and Wellness Director is a major step toward achieving that alignment.”
Kristin Miller, LCSW earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Bucknell University and her Masters in Social Work at Columbia University. She has more than 19 years of experience providing therapeutic services to children, adolescents, and adults. She provides training and consulting services to social service agencies, schools, universities, corporations, and churches; she also provides individual therapy to adolescents and adults. In addition, she is the co-founder and CEO of Mosaic Counseling & Consulting LLC, a group practice which provides individual, group, and family therapy, support groups, and workshops. She is a sought-after speaker and has created and presented numerous workshops and trainings for various organizations including the National Association of Social Workers as well as Rutgers University and Seton Hall University. She is also a volunteer trainer with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Ms. Miller’s areas of expertise include: racism and race-based trauma, depression, suicide prevention and awareness, anxiety, trauma, grief and loss, attachment and relationship issues, and faith-based counseling. She provides creative and culturally competent therapeutic services, as well as training and consulting services to mental health professionals, social service professionals and education professionals.