New Mental Health Unit Enhances Law Enforcement Response to Those in Crisis

Each morning, Clinician Kelly Decker reviews the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office call log from the previous day, checking over each narrative for indications that those involved in a particular incident are in need of mental health services. As a member of the new Mental Health Unit, Decker then provides follow-up to those who could benefit from additional services, beyond what can immediately be provided on scene by law enforcement. She is also ready to respond to scenes when called upon by deputies.

This newly formed Mental Health Unit by Sheriff Bill Prummell has been in development since October 1 of last year and is a partnership with Charlotte Behavioral Health Care. The Mental Health Unit is a collaboration between law enforcement and mental health professionals to help redirect individuals with mental illness from the judicial system to the health care system. The development of this unit does not replace deputies continuing to receive Crisis Intervention Training.

The target population to receive additional services are repeat 911 callers and persons with behavioral health issues who would benefit from mental health intervention, providing a more immediate stabilization of interpersonal or family crisis. By coordinating with other service providers, Clinician Decker also provides linkage to additional community resources beyond the current capability of the Mental Health Unit if the person’s needs warrant referral.

“The goal of the Mental Health Unit is to develop and implement safe, proactive and preventive methods of containing emotionally explosive situations that could lead to violence,” stated Clinician Decker. “My goal is to coordinate with Crisis Intervention Trained deputies on scene to stabilize the person or family in crisis and work toward a safe disposition for everyone involved.”

When might you interact with our Mental Health Unit? Here is an overview of the types of service calls they may follow-up on:

  • Provide immediate support for families following a traumatic event (unexpected death, homicide, assault, overdose, major car accident)
  • Connect individuals with community resources to help with immediate needs: food, clothing, shelter, substance use, mental health
  • Advocate for individuals who may be alone and in need of services
  • Assist with individuals who don’t meet Baker Act criteria, but need assistance
  • Assistance with Baker Acts and Marchman Acts (providing follow-up with additional services beyond initial hospital stay)

If you or someone you know is in crisis, you can contact Charlotte Behavioral Center’s 24-hour Crisis Line at 941-575-0222. The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office Non-Emergency Line is 941-639-0013. In an emergency, always dial 911.

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