First Assistant Prosecutors Welcome Autism New Jersey

December 09, 2023

On November 19, 2023, Autism New Jersey had the honor of presenting to the First Assistant Prosecutors’ Association of New Jersey (FAPANJ) at the County Prosecutors’ Association of New Jersey’s (CPANJ) College.

FAPANJ President Christopher Kuberiet welcomed Autism New Jersey Executive Director Dr. Suzanne Buchanan and Public Policy Director Laura Console to address First Assistant Prosecutors (FAP) from all 21 counties. Beginning with an invitation to collaborate on the many intersections of law enforcement and the autism community, Dr. Buchanan and Ms. Console provided an overview of Autism Jersey’s 800.4.AUTISM Helpline, clinical expertise, public policy work, and Law Enforcement Initiative.    

FAP Kuberiet asserted the importance of autism awareness at all levels of law enforcement and how Prosecutors’ Offices could enhance their efforts to support this often-vulnerable community.

Autism New Jersey’s Law Enforcement Initiative is driven by the desire to increase communication and collaboration between the law enforcement and autism communities. Individuals with autism are vulnerable and often misunderstood, and interactions with law enforcement can be life-saving and/or traumatic. Many agencies have helpful initiatives, e.g., community engagement events, blue envelopes, ongoing conversations with residents (both families and group homes), and an increasing number of counties have registries, modeled after Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.

As a member of the Attorney General’s Mental Health and Special Needs Steering Committee, Dr. Buchanan has become increasingly aware of the need for statewide coordination and opportunities for collaboration at the municipal, county, and state levels.

Dr. Buchanan shared, “We are deeply grateful for the organic efforts to date, ready to play an active role in the statewide coordination of autism-friendly practices, and excited for what we can accomplish together.”

Since the November FAPANJ meeting, former FAP Doreen Yanik joined Autism New Jersey to lead this initiative. “FAPANJ and Autism New Jersey have independently taken significant steps toward addressing the needs of the autism community, and I’m excited to come together to continue that work,” said Ms. Yanik. She continued, “As a family member of an adult with autism and a former prosecutor, I have a deep understanding of the issues presented to law enforcement and look forward to substantive conversations that will advance policies and practices to help both communities.”

Autism New Jersey is grateful to FAPANJ for the opportunity and looks forward to future collaboration.

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