By: Caroline Bowyer
Published: Jan 27, 2021 / Updated: Jan 28, 2021
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‘This has been needed for a long time’: GPD launches first program around mental health response
GREENVILLE, NC — The Greenville Police Department on Wednesday announced the launch of its Co-Responder Mental Health Response Program, in partnership with Integrated Family Services’ (IFS) Mobile Crisis Unit.
The program officially begins next week.
“We recognized that there was a big national call for more options for people when they call for assistance,” Greenville Police Chief Mark Holtzman said.
Following the national call for mental health options within the public safety system, Holtzman spearheaded an effort to expand the department’s response and handling of call types relating to mental health in a manner that provides the highest level of safety and service to all involved.
“The why now really is why not? This has been needed for a long time, I think in public safety,,” Holtzman said. “Again, we’ve had the service available to us in law enforcement but had never really utilized it to the level where it could’ve been.”
In August 2020, Holtzman announced new protocols and policies for the department, as GPD worked toward a change in our approach to handling sensitive calls for service through an enhanced partnership with mental health experts. Under those new protocols, Integrated Family Services’ “Mobile Crisis Team” was automatically notified by GPD communications staff when a suicidal or mental health-related call was received. A Mobile Crisis team member would speak with an officer on the phone whenever contacted, and, in many cases, would respond to the scene.
Although Mobile Crisis services have been available since 2008 in Pitt County, their use by law enforcement in the past was infrequent. The Greenville Police Department said it is pleased to share that since August of last year, GPD has utilized the service more than 100 times.
“We’re taught to de-escalate, we’re taught to secure a scene, but we’re not their doctor. We’re not their mental health professional,” Holtzman said.
The partnership has been such a success that beginning this Monday, full-time staff from the IFS Mobile Crisis Unit will be working within GPD headquarters with extended evening and nighttime hours, 7 days a week. The Mobile Crisis co-responders will respond directly to the scene of mental health-related calls where they will work alongside GPD officers to deliver the highest level of care possible to persons in crisis. The Co-Responder Outreach Specialist (CROS) team members are not police officers, but rather specially trained mental health professionals. The Greenville Police Department will be the first agency in eastern North Carolina to implement a program of this kind.
Even better news for eastern North Carolina residents – Holtzman has partnered with Pitt County Sheriff Paula Dance in his conversations with IFS over the last several months and, per the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office announcement yesterday, PCSO will also launch a partnership and co-responder model with IFS this spring. A follow-up care team will be implemented later this spring as part of a grant by Trillium Health Resources awarded to IFS (Mobile Crisis) in partnership with GPD and PCSO.
“Our next phase to this later on this spring will include after-care, some follow-up care the next day and weeks that follow,” Holtzman said.
This group of dedicated specialists will work to reduce repeat crisis calls involving the same individuals by following up directly with the person in the days and weeks following the first crisis call to 9-1-1.
“I could not be more pleased with the response I received from Integrated Family Services’ Mobile Crisis Team on this journey to deliver a new level of service to our community. I believe this program will scale quickly to other agencies in eastern North Carolina as we look for ways to improve public safety and partner with mental health resources for our community,” Holtzman said.
It is important to note Mobile Crisis services are not exclusively available to law enforcement. Their services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to anyone, regardless of insurance, living in the following counties: Beaufort, Bertie, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Columbus, Currituck, Craven, Dare, Gates, Hertford, Hyde, Jones, Martin, Nash, New Hanover, Northampton, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Pitt, Tyrrell and Washington County.
The number to call is: 1-866-437-1821.