Autism New Jersey Addresses County Prosecutors

April 15, 2024

On April 9, 2024, Autism New Jersey was honored to be invited to present to the 21 County Prosecutors and members of the New Jersey Office of Attorney General (OAG) leadership team at the County Prosecutors’ Association of New Jersey (CPANJ) meeting. The presentation to the leading law enforcement authorities in the state highlighted the need to connect the autism and law enforcement communities and was particularly meaningful as it occurred during Autism Awareness month.

CPANJ President and Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella welcomed Autism New Jersey Executive Director Dr. Suzanne Buchanan, Director of Clinical Content Dr. Joe Novak, Law Enforcement Initiative Director Doreen Yanik, and Community Engagement Coordinator Kayla Torres to address the County Prosecutors and First Assistant Attorney General Lyndsay V. Ruotolo about the many facets of Autism New Jersey, including our 800.4.AUTISM Helpline, clinical expertise, public policy work. Autism New Jersey specifically sought support for its Law Enforcement Initiative by the County Prosecutors and the OAG given that they are the chief law enforcement officials capable of effecting county and statewide policy change.

“Since I became the Bergen County Prosecutor over 5 years ago, improving ways in which law enforcement serves the community has always been a top priority to me. My goal is to ensure that every member of Bergen County law enforcement has the tools and the knowledge to best interact with all members of the public – especially those most at risk.

In the United States, over 2.1 million people are diagnosed with autism. Autism operates on a spectrum, affecting each person uniquely. Some individuals may have co-occurring disorders, sensory needs, or communication differences. If our officers are not adequately prepared to handle these needs, it could lead to misunderstandings and potential victimization.

Children and adults with autism may have problems with social interaction and communication skills. They sometimes do not understand simple questions or directions. They, at times, fail to respond to their name – and sometimes inappropriately approach a social interaction by being passive, aggressive, or disruptive. You could only imagine how harmful a situation could turn out if our law enforcement officers are not trained to work with people with autism.”

-CPANJ President and Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella

Through Autism New Jersey’s interactions with law enforcement, it is apparent that some agencies have beneficial initiatives (e.g., community outreach events, Blue Envelope, autism training, ongoing conversations with residents), and an increasing number of counties have implemented registries. However, we know there is still work to be done to expand these pockets of excellence. In speaking to CPANJ and the members of the OAG leadership, Autism New Jersey emphasized its goal to continue efforts with the law enforcement and autism communities to realize the expansion of such important practices on a statewide level. This expansion will be, in large part, facilitated by the work of Autism New Jersey’s Law Enforcement Advisory Committee and topical sub-committees.

Following Autism New Jersey’s presentation, members of CPANJ and the OAG leadership team expressed enthusiastic support regarding Autism New Jersey’s Law Enforcement Initiative and its goals.

“The Union County Prosecutor’s Office applauds Autism New Jersey’s Law Enforcement Initiative and support its efforts to encourage the statewide adoption of autism-friendly practices by law enforcement. With the goal of ensuring safe and effective interactions between the law enforcement and autism communities, I am proud that under my tenure the Union County Prosecutor’s Office implemented a county-wide Special Needs Registry and the Blue Envelope program. Autism New Jersey has effectively served as a much-needed connector between law enforcement and some of the most vulnerable members of our community.”

-Union County Prosecutor William Daniel

Autism New Jersey is grateful to CPANJ and OAG for the opportunity and looks forward to future collaboration and feedback.

Are you a law enforcement officer, Prosecutor’s office, or work in a related professional role? We welcome the opportunity to connect with you. Please email us at

Pictured above from left to right:

  • Union County Prosecutor William Daniel;
  • Autism New Jersey Community Engagement Coordinator Kayla Torres, MPA;
  • Autism New Jersey Director of Clinical Content, Joe Novak, Ed.D., BCBA-D, CCC-SLP, ATP;
  • Autism New Jersey Executive Director, Suzanne Buchanan, Psy.D., BCBA-D;
  • Autism New Jersey Law Enforcement Initiative Director, Doreen Yanik, Esq.; and
  • Bergen County Prosecutor and CPANJ President, Mark Musella