The Crisis Intervention Team in New Jersey (CIT-NJ) Center of Excellence hosted their 2nd Annual Forum on December 12, 2016 at the Middlesex County Fire Academy in Sayreville, New Jersey.
To Date CIT-NJ Center of Excellence has provided, 2,161 Law Enforcement Officers, 673, Mental Health Professionals, 56 Tele-Communicators, 57 Security Personnel, 28 Fire Fighters, 25 EMS personnel, for a total of 3,000 students the 40 hour CIT-NJ Center of Excellence Program throughout the state of New Jersey. This Year CIT-NJ Center of Excellence has also provided 4 (8 hour) Tele-Communicators class, and (2) (8 hour) Excited-Agitated Delirium Classes. CIT-NJ Center of Excellence has also presented at several police academies and has made many appearances throughout the state to inform people of what CIT-NJ is all about.
At this year’s annual forum the Keynote speaker was Gary Weitzen the Executive Director of POAC Autism Services (Parent of Autistic Children), which is the largest provider of free autism training and education in the state of New Jersey. Gary came to POAC with twenty years experience in the risk management field. In addition to his duties at POAC, for the past thirteen years he has worked for an autism program that teaches life skills to adults with autism. Gary currently serves on the New Jersey Governor’s Council for Biomedical Research. In the past, he has served as New Jersey representative for Unlocking Autism, and Vice President of Princeton Autism Technology. He is frequently called upon by the media to provide his expertise on autism, and has given presentations to tens of thousands of people across New Jersey. Gary has three children. His eldest son Christopher has autism.
It all started with Gary’s son Chris, who is eighteen, and was diagnosed at age three-and-a-half. Before Chris, Gary never knew another child with autism. Just after his son was diagnosed, Gary attended an autism conference, and he looked around and saw a thousand other people sitting with him, all there for the same reason. He remembers the presenters saying they didn’t know anything about our kids back then. That’s when he knew he had to do something for the kids who had autism at that moment.
POAC provides training for parents and families to help increase functional communication, decrease problem behavior, and increase socialization for their children with autism. They also provide training for teachers, paraprofessionals, and other service providers in evidence-based teaching procedures for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. Basically, we help teachers become even better educators for students on the autism spectrum. They also provide training to members of the general community who come in contact with individuals on the spectrum every day. Through its Autism Shield Program, POAC has we’ve trained 14,000 police and firefighters, and every year we get calls saying the raining saved the life of a child with autism.
We here at CIT-NJ Center of Excellence want to thank Gary and his organization for providing us additional training to help all of us to learn and understand how to provide services to everyone in our communities. Again “Thank You.”
The afternoon session of the Forum was for CIT-NJ Center of Excellence 2016 Award Presentation. This year’s awards went to the following:
Law Enforcement Officer of the Year
Officer Juan Guzman is an 18-Year veteran currently assigned to the patrol unit on the George Washington Bridge. Before being stationed at the George Washington Bridge, Officer Guzman was employed with the New York City Police Departments 26th Precinct located in West Harlem. In 2002 after the horrific events of September 11th, Officer Guzman was hired by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Police Department. He graduated from the Bergen County CIT Program on September 16, 2016 Class #88.
On September 23, 2016, just one week after Officer Guzman attended the CIT Center of Excellence Program along with his partner Officer Lavern Watson and Lieutenant Mike Hennessy in Bergen County, his Lt. Mike Hennessy and he would have a chance to use their newly obtained CIT skills. Officer Guzman and Lieutenant Hennessy were dispatched to a report of a man threatening to jump from the walkway along the eastbound lanes of the George Washington Bridge’s upper level.
On arrival, Officer Guzman and Lt. Hennessy discovered that a man had climbed over the railing on the bridge’s walkway, just west of the tower on the New York side. The man was standing on a ledge overlooking the Hudson River at which time Officer Guzman “engaged the suicidal subject in conversation and established an immediate rapport.” Due to this rapport and Officer Guzman’s compassion and willingness to listen, his Lieutenant and he were able to reassure the man that they were there to help.
The man then climbed back over the rail and back onto the walkway where Officer Guzman continued to talk to the man. The man was then transported to New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center to be evaluated.
Things did not end there for Officer Guzman. On September 24, 2016, Officer Guzman was once again called upon to use his CIT de-escalation skills.
While Officer Guzman was on patrol with his partner, Lavern Watson, they found a 28-year old New York City man acting suspiciously on the south walkway. Officer Guzman engaged the man in conversation who then stated that he came to the bridge to jump. Officer Guzman was able to build rapport with the man and was able to get the man to agree to go medical treatment. The man was transported by ambulance to Bergen Regional Medical Center in Paramus for evaluation.
Officer Guzman’s calm and compassionate demeanor along with his active listening skills allowed him the ability to gain great rapport with individuals to insure the safety of all subjects involved.
Since being assigned to the bridge in 2008 Officer Guzman has successfully be able to prevent over 24 individuals from attempting suicide.
Because of his ability and his compassion for all individuals Officer Guzman was awarded the CIT-NJ Center of Excellence Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award.
Coordinator of the Year
Shannon Brennan has been an employee of the Warren County Department of Human Services since November of 1991. Before that, Shannon worked as a Coordinator in Juvenile Counseling Service at Hunterdon Medical Center. Shannon was also a Staff Therapist for Outpatient Emergency Psychiatric Services for Family Guidance Center. Shannon has devoted her entire career to public service by helping individuals with mental illness. For the last thirteen years, Shannon has served as the Warren County Mental Health Administrator. In that position, Shannon recognized the need for greater collaboration between mental health providers, law enforcement as well as family and the community so that she could better serve individuals with mental illness. Shannon opened up a dialogue with the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office about mental illness in the criminal justice system. Those discussions led to the beginning of collaborations. In 2009, Shannon began talks with the Warren County Prosecutors Office along with many other county mental health resources, consumers and their families on how to improve in the area of mental health. One of Shannon’s main goals was to be able to provide education to all police officers in Warren County. Shannon took on this challenge and within five years she was able to bring everyone to the table for Warren County’s first 40-hour CIT-NJ Center of Excellence Program. Since then, the Warren County CIT program has flourished, having at least one officer in each municipality trained along with the NJSP. Shannon has also opened up the 40-hour program to school counselors, hospital security and clergy and was also able to work with CIT-NJ Center of Excellence to provide one day training to all Warren County dispatchers.
It is with this dedication and commitment to bring the CIT-NJ Center of Excellence Program to her county before her retirement in November of 2016, Shannon Brennan was awarded the Coordinator of the Year Award for 2016.
Peer of the Year
Azule Haywood started with the Being There Program, The Mental Health Association in Southwestern New Jersey’s Mental Health Education Program for high school and college students, in September of 2007. Prior to becoming a Being There speaker, Azule worked as a youth coach at the Camden County Family Support Organization (FSO). While working at the FSO, Azule met the Being There program coordinator and the two of them spoke about the purpose of the program and how Azule felt about sharing his personal story about living with mental illness with others. Azule jumped on board immediately and became one of the first Being There speakers. Through the years, Azule has shown tremendous courage and honesty sharing his story hundreds of times to thousands of students and teachers. So when Azule was asked to share his story as part of the CIT-NJ Center of Excellence Program’s Consumer Panel, it was a natural fit. Azule has become a vital part in the Consumer Panel presentation and has shared his story with hundreds of law enforcement officers and mental health providers. Through the years, Azule has become a tireless advocate of those living with a mental illness and has positively changed the minds on how others view persons with mental illness. Azule has used Being There and CIT-NJ Center of Excellence as a part of his therapy and as a major coping mechanism. His bravery, candidness, and humor have offered those in each presentation a message of hope that life is full of ups and downs but it is how you handle those ups and downs that truly represents your strength and character.
It is due to Azule’s bravery and candidness sharing of his personal story throughout the state of New Jersey along with the ability to change the minds of others throughout the state about the stigma of mental illness that he was awarded the Peer of the Year Award for 2016.
Communication Officer of the Year
Kimberly Matos is Linden Police Department’s 9-1-1 Dispatcher Supervisor. Kim has over 15 years of experience, 10 years as a front line dispatcher, three as a Supervisor, and the last two years as the 9-1-1 training coordinator. Kim is also a TAC officer, field training officer (FTO), holds a method of instructor certificate to teach at the academy level, as well as an EMD-9-1-1 Fire instructor’s license by NECI, CPR, and many other certifications. Kim is a graduate of the Union County CIT Program on March, 28, 2011.
Kim knew the importance of CIT after attending the 40-hour class and began to look into how she could learn even more in the field of mental illness and people with disabilities. In 2015, Kim sat with State CIT Director along with Officer Jarred Broadway, Burlington County CIT Coordinator, to recreate a new one day eight hour CIT program for tele-communicators. In August of 2015, Kim was able to roll out that new program to Warren County. The program was a success. Since then, Kim has been able to train over 75 dispatchers in the one day program and has been able to get state recognition through the state 9-1-1 system allowing all 9-1-1 dispatchers that attend the one day class to earn credits towards their yearly certification.
With Kim’s motivation and drive to bring CIT training to all statewide 9-1-1 dispatchers, all of whom can help make a difference from the start by asking the correct questions, having the correct active listening skills, and tone of voice from the start. Due to this Kimberly Matos was awarded the Communications Officer of the Year for 2016.
Trainer of the Year
Alex Bromley is a Detective with the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office and is currently assigned to the Special Victims Unit. Previously before his assignment to the Special Victims Unit, Alex was assigned to the Mental Health Unit of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office along with Assistant Prosecutor Renee White, an Ocean County CIT Coordinator. Alex was also a presenter at the 2016 CIT International conference. Alex is a graduate of the Union County CIT Program on June 9, 2014.
On September 23, 2016, Detective Bromley attended an Excited Delirium Class in the state of Maryland and became a Certified Instructor in Excited Delirium. At that time, Alex knew that this was something that he wanted to bring to the CIT-NJ Center of Excellence program. Alex spoke to State CIT Director about the idea and they agreed to first try adding an excited delirium block to Ocean County’s 40-hour CIT Program. The block was a great success receiving high reviews and leaving officers asking for more.
Soon after that Alex was teaching this block to other County 40-hour CIT programs throughout the state with the same results. Officers were asking for more. Alex and CIT Director then agreed to reach out and do some advanced CIT training. Alex offered several eight hour excited delirium classes throughout the state of NJ. Alex facilitated the training and was able to train over 200 students in the field of excited delirium.
Due to Detective Bromley’s dedication and will to strive to build on the CIT-NJ Center of Excellence Program throughout the state, Alex was awarded the CIT-NJ Center of Excellence Trainer of the year Award for 2016.
CIT-NJ Center of Excellence would again like to thank Gary Weitzen our key note speaker, and also thank all our County Coordinators, presenters and sponsors who helped us all year.
Special Thank You to this year’s
2016 Forum Sponsors :