Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, with the commitment and cooperation from the Ocean County Chiefs of Police Association and the Ocean County Association of School Administrators have launched a program entitled OCEAN COUNTY CARES.

“OCEAN COUNTY CARES is based on a model presented to me by Christopher Jakim, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas of New York and New Jersey (HIDTA). It really works as a tool for our law enforcement officers and school officials to communicate after any child is exposed to an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) that involved the police,” Prosecutor Billhimer stated. “The aim of the program is to help law enforcement and school personnel to assist with mitigating the negative affects experienced by kids that have been exposed to a traumatic event. A recent national survey revealed that 60% of children have been exposed to violence, crime or abuse. The data tells us that prolonged exposure to ACE’S can seriously undermine kid’s ability to focus, behave appropriately, and learn. Such exposure leads to difficulties in school, including truancy, suspension, dropping out, or involvement in the juvenile justice system,” Prosecutor Billhimer added. “With the cooperation of our Chiefs of Police and our Superintendents, I issued a Law Enforcement Directive codifying this process,” Prosecutor Billhimer added.

Under the Directive issued by Prosecutor Billhimer, whenever an officer responds to a situation where a school aged child is present and may have experienced an ACE, the officer is required to complete a standardized form that is distributed to a designated point of contact at the child’s school. No specifics or details of the incident are provided, instead, the notification only serves to alert the school about the student’s exposure to a potentially traumatic event. This alert provides the school with the awareness that the child has been involved in an ACE, and appropriate resources can be utilized to address the needs of the student.

“The good news is, a lot of our police departments and individual schools in Ocean County were already doing this, OCEAN COUNTY CARES just formalizes the process so that children can get the attention they need,” Prosecutor Billhimer stated. “I can’t say enough about the partnerships that have made OCEAN COUNTY CARES a reality. The Ocean County Chiefs of Police and the Ocean County Association of School Administrators were on board immediately. The Chiefs and the Superintendents have been wonderful to deal with. We worked on fine tuning the Directive so it was workable for every police department and every school district, no matter how big or small,” Prosecutor Billhimer added. “It is my understanding that Ocean is the second county to have a county wide program like this, Cape May was first with “Handle with Care,” Prosecutor Billhimer added.

“I’d really like to thank Chris Jakim, Special Agent in Charge, DEA/HIDTA, Anthony Pierro, Chief Juvenile Prosecutor, Chief Robert Tapp, President of the Ocean County Chiefs of Police Association, Will Smith, President of the Ocean County Association of School Administrators and Kevin Ahearn, Executive County Superintendent for their assistance in establishing OCEAN COUNTY CARES. Little Egg Harbor Chief of Police Richard J. Buzby, Jr. was a tremendous help in resolving some issues in towns where the New Jersey State Police have jurisdiction, so thank you to Chief Buzby and the New Jersey State Police. This was a labor intensive project. We all shared the common goal of making sure that school aged children in Ocean County are afforded the services they need after experiencing a traumatic event,” Prosecutor Billhimer concluded.