Former officer finds niche working in mental health

·3 min read

Jun. 1—HIGH POINT — Kim Soban probably raised a few eyebrows in 2012 when she quit her job with the High Point Police Department to work in mental health.

After all, Soban's blood ran blue. She'd been on the force for 15 years, including the last eight years working in homicide.

But here's the truth.

"I never wanted to be a police officer," Soban says matter-of-factly. "I always wanted to be a therapist."

Talk about raising eyebrows.

Nine years later, though, Soban appears to have found her niche. As the clinical director for Mental Health Associates of the Triad, she helped develop the agency's court services program — the only such program in Guilford County — working with the courts of the 18th District to give direct assessments of incarcerated individuals with a mental health diagnosis.

According to MHA, Soban is one of only four individuals in North Carolina — and one of only 122 in the country — to be certified through the National Board of Forensic Evaluators.

"You only have to look at the daily headlines and listen to the news to know the work she's doing is critical," says MHA Director Ellen Cochran.

Soban's goal is to provide an accurate diagnostic assessment — and the appropriate care plan — for the individual's mental illness, in hopes of eliminating or reducing the need for incarceration or hospitalization.

"When we do evaluations, if the person meets the criteria, we make direct referrals into those (treatment) programs, so we're kind of on the front line," explains Soban, who has a doctorate in clinical counseling.

"The whole goal is to identify if there's a mental health or substance abuse issue, and if there is, are they appropriate for the treatment courts, as opposed to getting jail time or probation? And then we come up with a treatment plan. Do they need medication? Do they need therapy? Do they need both?"

Soban is also an official mental health consultant for the High Point Police and Guilford County Sheriff's departments, sometimes going to the scene of an incident to provide guidance for the officers at the scene.

"If they have a barricaded subject or a hostage situation, I can go to the scene and offer consultation, especially if it's someone who has mental health issues," Soban says. "That's probably the closest I'll ever come to being a cop again."

Soban recently received a formal certificate of commendation from the sheriff's office for her role in a 2019 incident for which she "provided valuable information about the personality and state of the individual the deputies were dealing with," the commendation states. "She was able to provide suggestions for (sheriff's office) negotiators and for (the Sheriff's Emergency Response Team)."

Sometimes, Soban will be called upon to meet with officers who have been involved in a tense crisis situation, to assess how they're dealing with what happened emotionally and psychologically.

"I'll meet with the officers to make sure they're processing what happened correctly, and to find out what services they might need," she says. "I've always said we've got to take care of these men and women. My passion is taking care of them and making sure they're OK."

For example, Soban might be called in to talk with an officer who has shot a suspect during an incident.

"That's a hard process to go through," she says. "Even if it was justified, you're still the person that pulled that trigger, and your life is never going to be the same again. So how do we help them get through that? That's kind of where my heart's at right now."

Cochran, the MHA director, says Soban's law enforcement experience gives her additional insight for her current job.

"Dr. Soban is a multifaceted person, and she's uniquely qualified to do the job she's doing," Cochran says. "Her title is clinical director, but her role is far broader than that. She's a very valuable part of the work we do here." — 336-888-3579

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