State grant allows police depts. to hire mental health workers
Herald News - 3/22/2018
MIDDLEBORO - The State Department of Mental Health has awarded a $135,000 grant to six Plymouth County police departments to improve the way law enforcement serves those suffering from mental illness.
Middleboro Police Chief Joseph Perkins told selectmen last week that the grant was awarded to a coalition of police departments through the state's Regional Jail Diversion Program that includes Bridgewater, East Bridgewater, West Bridgewater, Whitman, Middleboro and Bridgewater State University.
The grant will provide a mental health worker "to help us with intervention with people with mental health issues," said Perkins, noting that police departments "encounter emotionally disturbed people and often times arrest is not the preferred choice."
Perkins noted the situation that occurred in Winchester at their Public Library when an individual who "had obvious mental health issues and resulted in a violent encounter in the library last week."
"Right now, the search is on by High Point administration to hire the clinician that will work with us. Once the person is hired, the program should start soon after," Perkins said in a March 14 email.
Over the next three years, $45,000 will be awarded each year to the coalition of the six police departments to pay the salary of a medical clinician "who will be embedded with police to assist those suffering from mental illness by diverting them from the courts/criminal justice system," according to a press release issued by the state.
The grant was awarded after a proposal was submitted by the Bridgewater Police Department on behalf of the partnering police agencies.
"As part of the program, a clinician will ride along with police officers in our communities and respond with them to calls where a person is dealing with a mental health issue," Bridgewater Police Chief Christopher Delmonte said.
"More and more often we are seeing crimes committed by those with mental health or substance abuse issues. Putting them in jail and in the court system in many cases doesn't get these individuals the help that they need. My thanks to Officer Scott Hile for his hours of work over the past two years leading to this grant award."
Some of the goals of the program are to:
Increase collaboration between local law enforcement and behavioral health providers
Increase the number of law enforcement and other first responders training in behavioral health topics
Increase the quality and consistency of behavioral health training delivered to law enforcement
Support law enforcement to develop policies and procedures that increase safety and effectiveness when responding to citizens with behavioral health challenges
Increase the likelihood of diversion from arrest for citizens with behavioral health challenges when safe and appropriate to do so