Sheriff’s Office launches crisis response team; New group to be linchpin of mental health efforts | News

FRANKLIN COUNTY — When Deputy Karry Andileigh saw an elderly woman driving dangerously due to her age, Andileigh knew she should probably take her keys away.

But she still wanted to make the uncomfortable experience a positive experience for the driver.

Months later, the woman invited Andileigh to dinner.

Andileigh’s approach and resulting findings are part of the latest initiative launched by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office to integrate mental health into the way the police department operates.

Last month, the FCSO officially deployed its Crisis Response Team, the linchpin of its efforts to create a more empathetic approach to policing. Led by Andileigh, the aim of the six-person team is to have a 24/7 response service that can send a deputy or a team of them who specialize in health response mental to any situation that might need it.

So far, the sheriff’s office has used the group to help negotiate a potentially dangerous domestic situation where a person barricaded themselves inside a residence and threatened to harm those inside. .

He was also sent as a mental health support team to help an owner cope with the loss of her 28 horses via an animal rescue after age affected her ability to properly care for her. ‘them.

“We wanted to make sure she had what she needed as well,” captain John Grismore said.

But the Crisis Response Team also plays a bigger role within the Sheriff’s Office, as the agency seeks to equip every deputy with at least some knowledge about how to respond to a mental health situation. . Unlike the St. Albans Police Department’s efforts to embed mental health clinicians into officers, the FCSO is looking to hone its entire department.

That’s not to say other departments aren’t training their mental health officers, but Grismore said the sheriff’s office is placing more emphasis on the subject by developing a series of training programs specifically focused on mental health response. Mental Health.

Grismore said the approach is cheaper, deployment is faster, and with the crisis response team being the heart of the service, its specialist response is available 24/7 instead of only when clinicians are available.

Nurses, Nurse Practitioners and Physicians

Grismore described the new program as taking a three-pillar approach. First, the sheriff’s office creates the specialized core team that has the most training in mental health intervention practices. Second, the rest of the department is being trained to better respond to mental health situations, and third, the department educates its own mental health assistants.

Grismore likened the organization of the new initiative to the way healthcare workers deliver medical services. Not all situations require a doctor, and sometimes a nurse practitioner can help. Or sometimes a nurse can take care of the problem.

Similarly, there would be different levels of mental health response training for each assistant. The crisis response team, or core team, would be akin to the service that a nurse practitioner can provide. Andileigh, who is currently pursuing her doctorate in general psychology, would be the literal doctor.

Andileigh said she entered law enforcement in part to see how such an approach could be put into practice. In her former job at the Howard Center, she said she worked with people who had difficult experiences with law enforcement and wanted to see if a mental health approach could be adapted in police departments to help people in need.

She gave the example of an autistic person, who can be non-verbal. In such a situation, an agent making verbal requests could not obtain answers to the questions he asks and the situation could escalate.

If a department, however, can receive information about the needs of such a person before giving a response, the deputy with the required skills could be sent to the scene.

Follow-ups could then be made if a person needed additional services from the list of available nonprofit organizations. Eventually, Grismore said he would even like to see the FCSO hire someone to fulfill this monitoring role to ensure that anyone who could benefit from connecting with mental health services or nonprofits charity for substance abuse disorders gets what she needs.

“[Mental health] may not be our problem, but it is an opportunity to provide better policing,” Grismore said.

New needs and old traditions

Grismore said he doesn’t think there are necessarily more mental health issues plaguing the public than in previous decades, but there has certainly been an increase in awareness of these issues.

Combine that awareness with the spotlight shone on policing after the George Floyd protests, and he said officers have been given the opportunity to re-examine their approaches.

“The media has focused on many negative cases. We weren’t involved, but we’re in uniform and it was an opportunity to understand why we do what we do and how we do what we do,” Grismore said.

For example, Grismore said the job and its culture has not always been supportive of police mental health. A 2019 study by the Ruderman Foundation found that members of the profession have a 30% higher suicide rate than those in the general population.

In response, the FCSO has begun to look at accessible support systems, such as hotlines and support groups, to help MPs who may be having trouble.

The sheriff’s office also eliminated mandatory overtime for its deputies to help officers find more personal time, and Grismore said the office is committed to creating a culture of open communication with its employees to detect potential problems before they escalate.

“People suppress those feelings, and we know that, and we work very hard to break down that barrier,” Grismore said.

While such efforts can help deputies maintain good mental health, they can also help officers stay calm in difficult situations instead of potentially escalating the response. Grismore gave the example of a chase he was involved in on Monday, March 14, when a man fled from police. He was eventually apprehended after a foot chase, and Grismore said the man was grateful to officers for not punching him in anger.

“Why would we? ” he said. “He’s a man, not a piece of meat.”

With less anger, officers are also better able to maintain objectivity when collecting evidence and improve community relations, even when making an arrest.

Andileigh gave the example of a man who ended up in the sheriff’s office after being released from jail. Because of his previous experience of being arrested by the agency, he traveled there to access services, and was eventually connected with housing through Spectrum Youth & Family Services.

Ultimately, such results – where the community improves – are the hoped-for end result.

“Those feel good,” Grismore said. “It’s a good thing to be part of knowing that we’ve always treated them well.”

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