More and more police officers are being asked to respond to scenes where a mental health crisis is unfolding.
Channel 2′s Christian Jennings spoke with one police department that shared how they’re tackling this crisis head on.
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A number of police departments across the country are currently hiring mental health clinicians to come with them on certain 911 calls. Dunwoody police is about to follow suit.
“This is something proactive we’re doing, and we’re doing it because we see a need for this. Our response to mental health calls is increasing by the day,” said Dunwoody Police Sgt. Michael Cheek. We’ve seen the need for further assistance from other people.”
Cheek said the department has already signed a contract with a local company called View Point Health.
Once a clinician comes on board, they’ll respond alongside police officers if a 911 call indicates there could be a mental health-related crisis happening.
“We’re going to have a clinician here on site... available 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Cheek.
Pej Mahdavi, director over the department’s corresponded program, said that lives are going to be saved thanks to the new policy.
“Traditionally, we haven’t put a lot of value on mental health, so we don’t have resources for mental health. And any time any of us are in crisis, we call 911, so what ends up happening is an officer ends up responding to a crisis that’s really out of their scope of work. There’s so many situations where I can say, ‘Absolutely, us being there de-escalated the situation,” said Mahdavi.
Mahdavi said his team is already working with several other metro Atlanta police departments, and they’re seeing success.
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“There’s been situations where the folks are in mental health crisis, and because of my abilities, I’m able to involuntarily hospitalize them, whereas police wouldn’t even be able to come in,” Mahdavi explained.
Currently, Dunwoody Police Department is contracted for one clinician, but they’re going to see how the program performs. If it’s successful, they may expand its outreach in the future.
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