More Police Departments Partnering With Mental Health Experts

By Victoria Kim 11/29/18
Mental health “co-responders” aid police by de-escalating potentially dangerous situations and connecting people to treatment.
police officers talking to a mental health expert

Police officers who find themselves face-to-face with people who may be suffering from mental health problems now have the proper support to de-escalate potentially deadly encounters.

We’ve heard of police departments partnering with mental health experts in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Kansas. Now, this strategy is being tried in Livingston County, New York, where police officers say it’s a step in the right direction.

“They’re trained professionals. They’re certified. They know much better than a deputy sheriff what exactly is going on mentally,” said Livingston County Sheriff Tom Dougherty, according to News 10 NBC.

Neighboring Monroe County is also experimenting with the new strategy, according to NBC.

According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, people suffering from mental health issues are 16 times more likely to be killed by police.

“The police officers are really asked to wear a lot of hats. They’re supposed to get on the scene and quickly assess the mental health status of someone,” said Michele Anuszkiewicz, Livingston County director of mental health.

Once police officers determine that there is no immediate danger on scene, mental health experts arrive to assess the situation.

“We’ll get there as soon as we can. We’ve got some very brief but we think evidence-based effective assessments that we can do with folks,” says Anuszkiewicz.

The mental health “co-responders,” who are on call 24/7, are able to determine whether a person should go to the hospital or if they would have a better outcome under a treatment plan. This is a better long-term solution for the individual, says Sheriff Dougherty.

“I can tell you, we have repeat offender after repeat offender and when I say offender, I mean somebody taken into custody on an MHA (mental health arrest)… There’s times, when we feel like patrol will drop them off at the hospital and we feel that they beat us back to the county.”

Dougherty added, “My belief is this new program may be more of a long-term involvement with the mental health crisis team. There may be more of a bond between the person that’s going through these struggles and a long-term commitment from the crisis team that maybe we don’t have the repeat calls, maybe they don’t have the repeat feelings because they’re getting more long-term treatment.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr