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Police now able to call mental health experts directly to scenes

November 22, 2018 06:17 PM

A new mobile response team is bringing mental health experts directly to the people who are having mental health breakdowns. 

Instead of some of those folks ending up behind bars, sheriff's deputies in Livingston County are calling therapists directly to get them help.  

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When it comes to police work, you don’t know what each call will bring. 

Lately, in Livingston County, deputies have spent hours waiting out emotionally unstable suspects at stand-offs and suicide attempts.

“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,” says Michele Anuszkiewicz, Livingston County director of mental health.

That’s why the sheriff’s office and other local departments in Livingston County are grateful for a new partnership that brings mental health experts right to the scene.

“They're trained professionals, they're certified. They know much better than a deputy sheriff what exactly is going on mentally,” says Livingston County Sheriff Tom Dougherty.  

Once a deputy responds and determines there is no immediate danger to the community, he or she will call a member of the mobile response team which has therapists available 24/7.

“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,” explains Anuszkiewicz.

Those assessments will determine whether the person should be taken to the hospital under mental health arrest or if a care plan can be developed to keep the person safe while counseling and/or treatment services are arraigned.  

Prior to the formation of this team, if a deputy showed up, the person was always taken to the hospital.

“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,” Sheriff Dougherty tells News10NBC.  

This program, he feels, will offer those folks more direct help. 

“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,” he says.

Other, larger counties like Monroe, have similar mobile response teams for mental health situations and have seen great success in getting more people who otherwise might end up behind bars, in treatment centers and programs instead.

Credits

Jennifer Lewke

Copyright 2018 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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