MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Ohio (WDTN) — Five local law enforcement agencies have launched pilot programs that will partner officers with mental health intervention specialists.
Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office said they’ve seen 95% of people suffering from mental illness avoid incarceration on scenes with a mental health professional. The goal of this program is to not only avoid jail time, but to also get people the proper care they need.
“Even though we try to do our best in the jail with mental health services, it is not the place for someone suffering a breakdown,” said Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck. “Arrests usually aren’t the thing that’s needed, arresting someone is the last thing we should do.”
Dayton, Vandalia, Kettering, Butler Twp. and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office have launched pilot programs that partner officers with intervention specialists. Streck says the pilot program, in addition to their peer support specialists inside the jails, has led to a major improvement.
“The county jail is a very large mental health depository,” said Streck. “This isn’t just a local problem, it’s a nationwide problem, so now we have these mental health specialists and they really have opened up our options of what we can do.”
Now, dispatch will determine if a crisis intervention team needs to respond with officers. If no laws have been broken, the team will help the individual get the resources they need.
“Our officer’s training does work, but it’s nothing compared to the training a professional mental health behaviorist has, and when we contract with Eastway Behavioral Center who also provide services in our jail. It’s a larger team that works together,” said Sheriff Streck.
Additionally, the program aims to reduce repetitive 911 calls by getting people the help they need right away, from a trained mental health specialist.
“We have certain people who are suffering from a mental health episode who will call five or six times a day, and the calls have been about their dishwasher not working or are paranoid, something dangerous is in their bedroom,” said Sheriff Streck.
When a law is broken and the person is arrested, officers can communicate with the Crisis Intervention Team and Peer Specialist to be ready and prepared to start services at the jail right away.