Mental health crisis calls are on the rise. With law enforcement usually being the first responders, police across New York and the country are rethinking the way they respond to these calls. Many agencies now work with mental health professionals and mobile crisis teams.
Police and mobile crisis team trainers show us how this collaboration works in the field.
As soon as Camillus Police Sergeant Kristen Afarian and Mobile Response Program Director Tania Lyons start their shift, they are called to assist a person in crisis.
“We just finished roll call and we have a call coming in,” said Afarian. “Someone called and stated that they were feeling suicidal. And we’re going to respond to that. And it’s great because we have mobile crisis right along with us. And we’re going to see how we can help this gentleman.”
Lyons says her agency, Liberty Resources, provides insights that compliments that of law enforcement.
“I will assist Sgt. Afarian to assess this individual; see what kind of feelings he’s having. If he has intent, a plan, means for that plan,” explains Lyons.
The partnership between law enforcement and mobile crisis team response is growing across the state and country.
“They know the right questions to ask. They have a bit broader idea of what services are available for people with mental illness. Really, that’s how they assist. Making our job a lot easier,” said Afarian.
For this person in crisis, the team decided the appropriate action would sending him to the hospital.
“He asked us for help, we said what we could offer him and he wanted to go to the emergency room to receive help. He really wasn’t feeling well also medically. We did call an ambulance to transport him to the hospital,” said Afarian.
"This is the benefit of a co-response,” added Lyons. “They’re now more aware of how mental health issues can play a role in criminal activity or police calls and how we can help.”
Lyons provides Sgt. Afarian with even more options if this patient had not been medically ill, furthering the skill building between them.
“So that’s good to know. Some of this is like, I need someone around me to interact with so that I can mentally feel better,” said Afarian.
The Camillus Police Department is setting the example with all of their officers trained in crisis intervention.
“They do a phenomenal job with de-escalation techniques. We are beyond impressed with the work that they do. I am not scared for my safety, especially when we go respond. The public has to remember that we take these calls outside of law enforcement all the time,” said Lyons.
“Reducing our injuries of our officers because we’re making plans ahead of the crisis situation and we get to know each other and we build that trust. We’re having a lot less incidents of violence a lot less incidents of people getting injured,” said Afarian.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call 211 or crisis connect at 315-251-0800 for help. You can also email email@example.com or visit www.liberty-resources.org for more information.