Chiefs from six Plymouth County police departments, which are working in a regional collaboration to pool their resources, have been awarded a grant by the state Department of Mental Health to improve the way law enforcement serves those suffering from mental illness.
Over the next three years, $45,000 (each year) will be given to the coalition of 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.
The grant was awarded as part of the state's Regional Jail Diversion Program to the police departments in Bridgewater, East Bridgewater, West Bridgewater, Whitman, Middleborough and the Bridgewater State University Police.
The grant was awarded this week 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."
The program will support people with mental health difficulties by offering individuals support and opportunities to get them the help they need, while also aiming to reduce arrests and criminal charges they may otherwise face.
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
The coalition and clinician will work closely with the High Point Treatment Center to help those individuals suffering from mental health and substance abuse disorders, which often are closely linked.
"While the main focus of this program is to assist those with mental health problems, it also goes hand-in-hand with the efforts our departments have been undertaking in the fight against the opioid epidemic," East Bridgewater Police Chief Scott Allen said. "We've found that many people with substance abuse problems have their addictions rooted in mental health issues. The clinician hired by our coalition will be another great tool for the many substance abuse outreach programs in our region and our health partners like the High Point Treatment Center."