The CarePlus Foundation will hold its 19th Annual Courage Awards Gala on May 10 at the Venetian in Garfield, benefiting the clients and programs of CarePlus. This year’s honorees includes the Port Authority Police Department. Officer Juan Guzman, CIT-NJ Center of Excellence Officer of the year (2016), will be accepting this honor on behalf of the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD).
The Gala celebrates those who tirelessly work on behalf of the mental health community. Proceeds fund educational scholarships, housing and medication assistance, substance abuse services, outpatient treatment and therapy for children and adults who are enrolled in CarePlus services, as well as advocacy and community education.
“One example of how CarePlus provides community education is the collaboration with the PAPD on a project at the George Washington Bridge, a site of frequent suicide attempts,” explained Lisa Montuore, Program Manager of the Psychiatric Emergency Screening Program (262-HELP) at CarePlus. “Our vision was that we could help people pause long enough to consider that there is another option, that they are not alone… and that there is help available.”
A safe messaging campaign was launched in the fall of 2015, which included the installation of signs that crossed the span of the bridge, carrying messages of hope, resilience, and encouragement and in some cases, expressing sentiments from survivors who at one time contemplated ending their life. The Psychiatric Emergency Screening Program’s crisis helpline (262-HELP) is also posted on every sign.
“The PAPD has the difficult task of ensuring the safety of approximately 50 million vehicles crossing the busiest bridge in the world and they take their job very seriously,” continued Montuore. “They are also the ones who swiftly respond almost daily, to those individuals contemplating suicide on the pedestrian walkways of the GWB, many times successfully preventing a tragedy and connecting them with 262-HELP and the emergency mental health services they need.”
Those planning the Courage Awards this year have commented that the efforts of the PAPD, as well as all of those involved with CIT NJ, have been exemplary of the theme of the evening: ‘Building Community Connections’.
“It became obvious that the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training was absolutely necessary in this project,” said Amie Del Sordo, Director of 262-HELP and the Mental Health Coordinator for the CIT Program in Bergen County. “We wanted to ensure that CIT in Bergen County was acknowledged through the Gala this year. Officer Guzman was recently named CIT Officer of the Year in the State of New Jersey (2016) to acknowledge not only his work but the work of the PAPD. Many lives have been positively impacted by the dedicated officers on the bridge who have intervened and connected consumers to services in Bergen County.”
To date, 105 CIT trainings have been held and over 3,000 Law Enforcement Officers have been certified throughout New Jersey. Bergen County has conducted 3 training classes since it began in 2016 and has trained 64 Law Enforcement Officers and Criminal Justice Personnel in conjunction with 29 mental health professionals. The PAPD has been an active participant in these trainings and has trained 6 PAPD officers. The next Bergen County CIT Training is scheduled for September 2017. (http://www.cit-nj.org/)
Registration for the Courage Awards includes a cocktail hour, dinner, live and silent auctions, and a 50/50 raffle. Individual tickets are available at $175 each, with full tables of 10 offered for $1,500. For more information contact the Foundation Office at 201-986-5070.