Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Muhlenberg SED has hidden cost to Plainfield taxpayers, public safety

Sign on Watchung Avenue lawn during Muhlenberg closure process.

Here's a question Plainfield's City Council may want the answer to as they enter the FY2011 budget season: What is the cost to Plainfield taxpayers and community safety of police having to divert certain calls away from the Muhlenberg SED (Satellite Emergency Department)?

Chatting up a Plainfield police officer on an off-duty security assignment recently, I was surprised to learn that the
Muhlenberg SED does not handle drunks, those high on drugs or psychiatric emergencies.

In the old days, Plainfield police would take drunks unable to navigate on their own and those under the influence of drugs to the Muhlenberg ER, where they were kept until safe to be on their own or a family member came to get them.

No more.

Now, Plainfield police officers must take alcohol- or drug-impaired folks to either Solaris' JFK Medical Center in Edison or to Overlook Hospital in Summit.

This can take an officer (or two) out of Plainfield FOR UP TO TWO HOURS PER INCIDENT. Also note that alcohol-related incidents are more frequent on weekend nights, when you might expect more officers to be needed on Plainfield's streets.

Add to that the EXTRA FUEL COSTS
and you have an issue in the making. (Plainfield spent $414,000 on gasoline last year, according to the line in the temporary appropriations budget from the July 1st meeting.)

Psychiatric emergencies are even more time-consuming and expensive, as two officers respond to the incident and either call or wait for an ambulance (most often Atlantic Ambulance) to transport the person to Trinitas Medical Center in Elizabeth. One officer must ride along in the ambulance, meaning the other officer tags along to Elizabeth to bring the first officer back.

The ride to Elizabeth takes EVEN LONGER and USES MORE GAS than either of the other two runs, leaving Plainfield taxpayers on the hook for even more expenses and Plainfield itself with fewer cops on the street when needed.

With the recent wave of gang violence, Plainfield's police are already feeling stressed out and stretched thin. The Muhlenberg SED situation only compounds matters.

Plainfield's City Council might be amazed to find out just how many such calls are handled, how many hours police are diverted from their primary duty of protecting Plainfield's streets and neighborhoods, and the cost to the taxpayers for gas for all this extra schlepping around.

Which raises another point: Why hasn't Mayor Robinson-Briggs' and Assemblyman Green's Community Advisory Group jumped on this issue?

Instead of having the public lovefest as was done at Washington Community School back in the Spring, why not get down to specifics about what can be done to ameliorate this situation for the Plainfield taxpayers?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Alan Goldstein said...

"Why hasn't Mayor Robinson-Briggs' and Assemblyman Green's Community Advisory Group jumped on this issue?"

I'll venture a guess: neither of these two politicians are leaders.

They'll try to co-opt an issue once others make it an issue, or if their strings are pulled by their puppet masters. But probably the puppet masters are holding out for the big bucks that will come when Muhlenberg is redeveloped as condos or something along those lines.

Besides, once you get past the "let's all work together as one happy family with me in charge" attitude, the threats to take legal action against the City Council if it gets too pushy with circumscribing the Administration's actions, or the Assemblyman's infantile and destructive tirades against opponents and supporters alike, there isn't much time left to tend to the details.

Emergencies aside though, whatever happened to the days when you got thrown into the drunk tank and slept it off?

Anonymous said...

It's not the Muhlenberg Emergency Department that's the problem--it is functioning very well. The problem is that Solaris (JFK) has limited what the Muhlenberg ER can handle. That's why so many people have to be transported out of town, and yes, it is costing us a lot. And think about the people who need hospitalization or out-patient examinations or treatment but don't need to be transported by ambulance or police--this situation has created problems for them too.

We need our hospital back--all of it!

Anonymous said...

Here's one excample of tying up the time of our police. I live in the 500 block of West 8th street and there is a group homw for some very troubled girls here. The police are there constantly, sometimes several times a day, for at least an hour each time. Then I'll see an Atlantic ambulance show up and cart the girl or two off. Now I know they are going all the way to Elizabeth.
That's just one place causing all this stress on our public safety.

Now while the cops are sitting there babysitting, in a group home that appears to be out of control, the criminals and dangerous drivers in town are going undeterred.

We need solutions, not feel good press conferences and flyers.

We need more cops and a rescue squad that actually is able to come when called. And a hospital in the city that can service our residents.

Get with the program Sharon!

Anonymous said...

Oh Yes I live on West 8th street aswell. I have seen the officers there i thought they lived there(LOL)
But i think if the counselors cannot control the house or the troubled girls there it should be shut down or staffed with counselors that can control them.
My taxes are extreme;y high and rather see our officers patrolling the streets for the gang members and criminals they baby sitting. As far as Muhlenberg is concerned if its a satelite emergency room I think it should be staffed properly to handle the drunks druggees and psychiatric emergencies

Anonymous said...

If one looks quickly at the posted reads "GOP please help". Maybe that's what we really need in this town. Bi-partison leadership in our government.