Grogan stressed that officers will secure an area before the clinician arrives on the scene. The department still needs to work with View Point Health to hire the city’s clinician, he said, expecting to start operating the new model within six months.
The clinician will work 40 hours each week, Grogan said. He expects the clinician to work in shifts from 2 p.m.-10 p.m., the peak hours for service calls related to mental health crises.
Police officers have recently been saddled with more and more calls related to mental health, Grogan said, despite not being well-equipped to handle them. About one out of every eight calls for service in Norcross involves a mental health crisis, he said.
“We’ll get free training out of this, just by the mere fact of standing next to the person during a crisis,” said Grogan at an October work session meeting. “Learning what they’re doing is priceless.”
Brookhaven, Johns Creek and Lawrenceville are among the metro Atlanta cities that already send clinicians out with officers, known as a “co-responder model.”
The city might hire additional clinicians based on the success of the program, Grogan said. He expects all of the police departments within Gwinnett County to bring on clinicians to work alongside their officers in the near future.
The addition of mental health specialists to police departments can reduce incarceration and recidivism within communities. More than 100 individuals in Lawrenceville have avoided jail time since the introduction of clinicians within its department, according to Police Chief Tim Wallis.
“We’re trying to be forward thinking in how we address people in our community and recognizing that mental health is a real thing,” Councilmember Matt Myers told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in October