Two mental health professionals were added to the Brookhaven police force to help officers deescalate tense situations with suspects, officials said.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Brookhaven police have reported an increase in mental health-related 911 calls, according to a news release. Police Lt. Abrem Ayana said that prompted the creation of the department’s new crisis intervention team, which he will oversee.
“While the officers want to help in every way, often they may lack the appropriate resources and advanced training to fully evaluate the situation,” Ayana said in the release. “We can get the mental health professionals involved who can make contact with the person and de-escalate the situation.”
The department said the mental health professionals will be able to authorize transport to a facility in select cases if a person is suffering a mental illness-related crisis. Ayana said the new team’s goal is to help provide access to mental treatment instead of booking residents with a mental illness in jail.
The new full-time hires were partially funded by a $14,737 grant awarded to the department by the U.S. Department of Justice. The mental health professionals were found through a partnership with the Behavioral Health Link (BHL), an organization that handles the Georgia Crisis and Access Hotline. BHL recently assisted the state in launching a COVID-19 Emotional Support Line, which received nearly 1,000 calls by the end of August.
“This model directly addresses concerns for non-law enforcement intervention in cases involving mental health issues, and it does so without siphoning resources away from fighting crime,” Mayor John Ernst said in the release.
Brookhaven CIT will also provide internal services, such as assisting with stress management, post-traumatic stress response and fatalities.
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