Johns Creek approves mental health professional to help police answer calls

A mental health professional will begin assisting Johns Creek police in January with 911 calls involving mental illness or crisis intervention.

Police officers respond to several calls per day involving someone with mental health problems, according to City Manager Ed Densmore. The healthcare professional will offer trained expertise in mental illness and can provide follow-up counseling resources to the person in need. They will join 28 officers the department has trained in crisis negotiation.

During a Monday meeting, the Johns Creek City Council approved an agreement with Behavioral Healthcare Link to have a mental health professional work within the police department. They would ride with an officer to the location of the call and be on hand for support and professional guidance, Communications Director Bob Mullen said, in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A rotation of clinicians will work a total of 40 hours per week with police, Mullen said, adding that they will also be available on call 24 hours per day should a need arise.

City officials confirmed there will be no cost for the services provided by Behavioral Health Link. The services are provided to communities through the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.

In October, the Brookhaven Police Department announced that two mental health professionals with Behavioral Health Link would begin working with officers.

Sandy Springs police is another community north of Atlanta that’s looking into hiring a mental health expert. The city plans to hire a social worker or similar professional who has the training to de-escalate situations involving people experiencing a mental health crisis.

Last week, Sandy Springs Deputy Chief Keith Zgonc said the department is researching best practices for the safety of the mental health professional when police respond to 911 calls.

In Johns Creek, an expert will bring perspective to situations that officers and detectives may not be aware of, officials said. During a November City Council discussion on the matter, Densmore hoped the move would bring a reduction to repeat 911 calls by the same people.