Gwinnett sheriff starts mental health task force

Newly elected sheriff Keybo Taylor speaks at a press conference at the Gwinnett County Jail. Taylor has created a new mental health task force. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION AJC FILE PHOTO
Caption
Newly elected sheriff Keybo Taylor speaks at a press conference at the Gwinnett County Jail. Taylor has created a new mental health task force. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION AJC FILE PHOTO

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Gwinnett County Sheriff Keybo Taylor, who campaigned in part on better de-escalation training in the county jail, announced this week the creation of a mental health task force.

The task force is starting with two people, but public information officer Ashley Castiblanco said more would be added.

The task force will be led by Lt. Trakida Maldonado, a former hostage negotiator in the sheriff’s office who is a licensed professional counselor. Maldonado has clinical experience with crisis intervention, substance abuse and psychotherapy in addition to her law enforcement work, and she worked as a behavioral specialist in the Emergency Department of Emory Healthcare.

The group’s clinical director and program coordinator, Dana Tatum, is a forensic psychological consultant who has worked with criminal behavior, hostage negotiation and crisis intervention. Tatum developed and implemented behavioral health treatments at 28 jails and 17 prisons in more than 10 states.

Castiblanco said the team is focused on education and decriminalizing mental health, as well as advocacy, but said it’s too soon to know more details of the task force’s day-to-day work. She said the group intends to divert people from jail, into treatment, and will respond to known or suspected instances of mental health calls.

Lawrenceville recently approved a measure that will send mental health clinicians out with police officers during some calls.

In a news release, Taylor said he hopes to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and move mental health related issues out of the jail.

That will happen through anti-stigma education and training, advocacy and crisis intervention and other trainings. The group intends to provide support to other law enforcement agencies, as well.