Community Care and Justice


South Orange is partnering with Essex County and Seton Hall University to create and launch a social work pilot called the Community Care & Justice Program. The CC&J mission: to engage community members in designing and traveling their own wellness journeys, with a particular focus on protecting and elevating our most vulnerable members and our youth. CC&J might include 911 Diversion, Restorative Practice Councils, dialogue on How To Be An Anti-Racist, Community and First Responder Mental Health Awareness Training and more. 

CC&J Survey 

We have launched a survey to identify CC&J priorities and we need your eyes and ears and input! 

What values should drive our program? Where do you see a need for social work? How can we empower our community members to improve their mental health and wellness? How can we supplement Village law enforcement services to improve public safety in our community? Please take some time to complete our CC&J survey, which you can access using the Qualtrics link below, and please spread the word to your friends and neighbors. For your information, the letter of solicitation linked below provides an overview of the survey process. Thank you in advance for your commitment to CC&J. 

CC&J Survey Letter of Solicitation

(Friday, October 8, 2021)NBA Star Allan Houston Brings FISLL to Seton Hall  

Former NBA superstar and Olympic gold medalist Allan Houston will be bringing his leadership mentoring program that emphasizes Faith, Integrity, Sacrifice, Leadership and Legacy (FISLL) to Seton Hall.

Part of the The Allan Houston Legacy Foundation, FISLL enjoys an exclusive partnership with the NBA and the FISLL Project focuses on "Youth Voice and Leadership cultivation, combining the model of leadership teaching and restorative behavioral science with mentorship, character development, media content, events, and programming."

The Community Care and Justice initiative has joined together with The FISLL Project, the Village of South Orange, the City of Newark and its Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery, The H.U.B.B (Helping us Become Better) and Seton Hall to bring this leadership mentoring program to Newark police officers, South Orange police officers and youth from both Newark and South Orange.

Through FISLL, Houston utilizes his sports philosophy combined with his dedication to servant leadership to empower participants to create social impact by coming together. The program's ultimate goal is to empower cities, entities and organizations to create compassionate collaborative communities and cultivate servant leaders.

"This is an opportunity for us all to sit down as human beings and find a way – lead a way – to common ground," said Professor Juan Rios, co-director of Community Care & Justice and director of the graduate social work program at Seton Hall. "Cops and kids, profs and credible messengers from the community – we all have a part to play in the solution. And Allan Houston's program – emphasizing faith, integrity, sacrifice, leadership and legacy – lays the groundwork."

LaKeesha Eure, LCSW and director of the Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery, agreed: "The FISLL program is a perfect complement to the holistic approach to community wellness we have taken in Newark. Systemic problems require systemic solutions. And in integrating all aspects of the community – police and citizens, academics and community practitioners, government officials, businesses and private organizations, the young and old – we are better able to come to real answers that work for real people in the real world. I believe FISLL has the power to be the next piece in that puzzle for the City of Newark."

Participating in the event will be:

  • Dean Georita M. Frierson, College of Arts & Sciences at Seton Hall University
  • Donna Coallier, Village Trustee, South Orange Village
  • Lakeesha Eure, Director of the Office of Violence Prevention & Trauma Recovery
  • Ernesto Morillo, Lieutenant, South Orange Police Department
  • Professor Thomas Shea, Director of the Police Graduate Studies Program at Seton Hall University
  • Al-Tariq Best, CEO/Founder of The HUBB Arts & Trauma Center
  • Professor Charles Grantham, Director of the Center for Sport Management at Seton Hall and former Executive Director of the NBA Players Association
  • Dennis Carter, Executive Director Allan Houston Legacy Foundation
  • Allan Houston, Olympic Gold Medalist, Two-Time NBA All-Star and FISLL Founder

(September 2021) Community Care & Justice Previews Virtual Reality ‘1000 Cut Journey’ for Students, Faculty and Police

As part of his work with the South Orange Community Care & Justice program, Social Work Professor Juan Rios of Seton Hall hosted a virtual reality showcase and preview for professors, students and local police at Space 154, the University’s digital creation lab.

The Community Care & Justice initiative is a collaboration between Seton Hall, South Orange and Essex County designed to “reimagine” traditional models of law enforcement through the larger lens of public safety and wellness with a greater emphasis on crisis prevention. The program is led by Trustee Donna Coallier, chair of the Village’s Health and Public Safety Committee, and Professor Juan Rios, Director of Seton Hall University’s Master of Social Work program.

At the screening, Professor Rios featured the virtual reality program “1000 Cut Journey,” which “uses immersive virtual reality (IVR) to create a ‘virtual shoes’ experience through which a participant can viscerally embody an avatar who encounters various forms of racism,” according to the Cogburn Research Group of the Columbia University School of Social Work, which developed the program along with Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab.

In “1000 Cuts,” participants embody a Black male, Michael Sterling, experiencing racism as a small child through disciplinary action in the classroom, as an adolescent encountering the police, and as a young adult experiencing workplace discrimination.

“This virtual reality program is a tool intended to increase empathy and decrease implicit bias,” said Rios. “For social workers and police officers, empathy can be a core component of successful case and incident management. By bringing this group together today we received substantive, positive feedback on its efficacy for both students and first responders. We’ll be utilizing this program going forward.”

Trustee Coallier added, “We need to deploy every tool at our disposal to address implicit bias. This technology coupled with understanding the real experiences of our community members shows tremendous promise in helping build more empathy on an individual, deeply personal level. An important tool in anyone’s arsenal and one we plan to make great use of through Community Care & Justice.” 

Participating in the preview were Rev. Dr. Forrest Pritchett, director of The Martin Luther King Leadership Program at Seton Hall; Sergeant John Niedzinski of the South Orange Police Department; Megan O’Brien, a recent graduate of the SHU MSW program and assistant director of the Community Care & Justice Program; Brothers Rafael Vargas ’16 and Reegan Lidet of the Salesians of Don Bosco, who have both just entered the Masters of Social Work program at Seton Hall.

The preview was facilitated by Alex Pilaia ’08 of TLTC.  

Reverend Dr. Pritchett was the first to undergo the “1000 Cut Journey” and thought the experience could prove helpful for some. “I’ve lived this in real life, 3D,” he said. “So, in some ways the virtual reality experience felt one dimensional. But for some people I think this tool can be very useful: one dimension is better than none, and a step in the right direction.”

Sergeant John Niedzinski, a self-described “weathered officer” who, as a supervisor, helps train SOPD officers, agreed. “I can see this being useful for some officers. It allows you in a sense to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and I think it can give some officers, especially younger officers, a better grounding in the perspective and experience of some of our community members.”

Sergeant Niedzinski also noted that he thought the technology could be extremely useful for members of the community if a program could be devised to allow people to experience what it is like to be a police officer involved in a traffic stop or responding to a domestic violence call. “It would be great for people to have a better understanding of what it’s like to be a police officer – just as it would be great for police officers to have a better idea of what it’s like on the other side of the dispatch.”

Brother Reegan Ledet is a graduate of the University of North Texas who recently took his first vows as a Salesian of Don Bosco, a worldwide organization founded by St. John Bosco which is the second largest Catholic religious order in the world.

He comes to brotherhood and his desire to become a social worker after having taught high school.

“It was distressing, off-putting and very confusing to me,” said Ledet, who is white. “When it started out in what I imagine was either a pre-k or kindergarden class I couldn’t understand why I was left playing alone. And when I smiled and put out my hand to shake and said ‘Hi, I’m Michael,’ no one responded. I was just left there hanging – and alone – asking ‘Why won’t you shake my hand.’ I actually had a physical response – a little bit of a chill.”

Ledet then asked, “How many times does a young boy hold out his hand, rejected, before he just stops trying?”

Rafael Vargas, who has just taken his final vows as a Salesian Brother, had a similar experience. “I was confused,” he said.  “I grew up in a mixed community but have never been stopped by a cop. I didn’t know what to do when the police officers in the virtual program told me to stop and get down on the ground. It was intimidating. I felt like I had no voice.

 CCJ Meagan OBrien

Megan O’Brien, assistant director of the Community Care & Justice Program, experiencing "1000 Cut Journey,” an immersive virtual reality experience wherein participants embody a Black male, Michael Sterling, experiencing racism as a small child through disciplinary action in the classroom, as an adolescent encountering the police, and as a young adult experiencing workplace discrimination.

 CCJ Forrest Pritchett Juan Rios

Rev. Dr. Forrest Pritchett, director of The Martin Luther King Leadership Program at Seton Hall, experiencing the "1000 Cut Journey" along with Professor Juan Rios, director of Seton Hall University’s Master of Social Work program and co-director of the South Orange Community Care & Justice Program. 

CCJ SOPD Officer Sergeant John Niedzinski Seton Hall Professor Juan Rios and Meagan OBrien 

Sergeant John Niedzinski of the South Orange Police Department; Megan O’Brien, assistant director of the Community Care & Justice Program; and Professor Juan Rios discussing "1000 Cut Journey."

(Summer 2021) Social Work Professor to Lead Community Outreach and Wellness in South Orange

Kristin Miller, a professor in the Social Work Department at Seton Hall University, has joined the South Orange Community Care & Justice program as Director of Outreach and Community Wellness.

Miller, who has lived in South Orange for nearly 20 years, will work with clinicians and students at Seton Hall as well as community volunteers and organizations and the South Orange Police Department in coordinating social work, mental health and substance misuse services to local residents.  

As part of her duties, Miller will also design policy and programming for the Wellness Outreach initiative as well as a strategic calendar of community Wellness trainings and a mental health resource guide. She will provide supervision to staff and volunteers and outreach and case management support to community members while working with police to leverage research and strategize prevention.

 A Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Miller created and teaches Trauma-Informed Social Work Practice at Seton Hall and says she is “committed to helping individuals heal, grow, and reach their full potential,” and especially committed to “promoting social justice, especially as related to racism and race-based trauma.”

“The Community Care & Justice program will help align the various service structures within the town and the county to more effectively serve the needs of the people,” said Miller. “In looking through the numbers, it becomes apparent that the Village is engaged at times in what is often referred to as ‘wrong pocket’ problems – with police responding repeatedly to calls of a nature that lend themselves more readily to housing, social work, substance misuse and counseling professionals addressing systemic issues in a systemic way.”

The Community Care & Justice program was initiated by South Orange Village President Sheena Collum and is a collaboration between the South Orange community, Seton Hall University and Essex County. The initiative seeks to “reimagine” traditional models of law enforcement through the larger lens of public safety and wellness with a greater emphasis on crisis prevention. The program is led by Trustee Donna Coallier, chair of the Village’s Health and Public Safety Committee, and Dr. Juan Rios, Director of Seton Hall University’s Master of Social Work program.

“We’re honored and pleased to have Kristin Miller on board as part of the Community Care & Justice program,” said Professor Rios. “As we’re coming to the final stages of our assessment of community needs here in South Orange, we’re getting ready to roll out with ‘boots on the ground.’ And her experience as a clinical supervisor, therapist, professor and a trainer of trainers will allow us to offer our residents a fuller spectrum of mental health and wellness options.”

Trustee Coallier agreed, “Addressing public safety concerns with wellness programs can benefit everyone. Those in need receive services better suited to their circumstances, delivered with the right professional credentials. Our taxpayers are not left paying for recurring ‘emergency’ services to treat ailments that are better addressed proactively. Here in South Orange, we're committed to aligning our public safety and wellness spend with the ‘right’ pockets – and Kristin Miller coming on board as Community Outreach and Wellness Director is a major step toward achieving that alignment.” 

Kristin Miller, LCSW earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Bucknell University and her Masters in Social Work at Columbia University. She has more than 19 years of experience providing therapeutic services to children, adolescents, and adults.  She provides training and consulting services to social service agencies, schools, universities, corporations, and churches; she also provides individual therapy to adolescents and adults.  In addition, she is the co-founder and CEO of Mosaic Counseling & Consulting LLC, a group practice which provides individual, group, and family therapy, support groups, and workshops.  She is a sought-after speaker and has created and presented numerous workshops and trainings for various organizations including the National Association of Social Workers as well as Rutgers University and Seton Hall University.  She is also a volunteer trainer with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Ms. Miller’s areas of expertise include: racism and race-based trauma, depression, suicide prevention and awareness, anxiety, trauma, grief and loss, attachment and relationship issues, and faith-based counseling. She provides creative and culturally competent therapeutic services, as well as   training and consulting services to mental health professionals, social service professionals and education professionals.