Implementing Connecting People in New Jersey

Posted on 11 March 2019

The International Centre for Mental Health Social Research (ICMHSR) has started a new collaboration with the Jewish Family Service (JFS) in New Jersey, USA.

The Jewish Family Service (JFS) provides a range of services in the Atlantic and Cape May Counties of New Jersey, including counselling, case management, a food bank and family therapy.

ICMHSR will be assisting JFS to implement Connecting People in its work, starting with people experiencing homelessness, mental health problems and the criminal justice system.

The aim of this project is to reduce social isolation experienced by this group who face the challenges of poverty and social exclusion in the resort city of Atlantic City and its neighbouring towns. The project also aims to reduce recidivism and provide a counter-narrative to mass incarceration, which has become a feature of marginalised communities and people of colour in the USA. The outcomes of the project will be evaluated by Dr Christine Tartaro, Professor of Criminal Justice at Stockton University.

Laura Rodgers, Chief Program Officer, is leading the project for JFS. She said: “We are inspired by the Connecting People model and the collaboration in place to bring it to the United States. The practice of Connecting People will be transformative for our service delivery at JFS and for the outcomes of the people we serve”.

Professor Martin Webber and Dr Nicola Moran of ICMHSR have spent a week in Atlantic City to meet JFS staff and consumers. They visited services provided for people experiencing homelessness and the Atlantic County Jail to better understand how Connecting People could be implemented in the work of JFS.

In a week when a Code Blue alert was declared, as temperatures struggled to reach freezing point, night shelters were opened to accept all people experiencing homelessness even if they had been previously barred entry.

“Faith-based organisations play a crucial role in supporting people experiencing poverty and homelessness in Atlantic City”, said Professor Webber. “It is humbling to see the expertise and professionalism of JFS staff working with those not eligible for any social assistance or not covered by health insurance.”

“I hope that Connecting People can inform their work, and improve outcomes for people experiencing homelessness and mental health problems. I look forward to developing this exciting new collaboration with JFS and their partners over the next few years,” he added.