(Lawrence County, Pennsylvania) Many municipalities are adopting a mental health alternative to 911 calls. For example, multiple counties in Pennsylvania pairs a mental health responder to a designated officer. However, Lawrence County has identified some issues with that model and have pivoted to a more efficient method.
According to the district attorney, “This model is based upon assigning a mental health advocate to a particular turn or to a particular officer. The problem that we found with that was that the officers get called to a variety of calls, not just mental health calls. A lot of the time, the advocate is being wasted at a burglary call, or criminal trespass or retail theft. “So what we decided to do was to create a model where they are in the district attorney’s office and they are on call, and any time a police officer anywhere in the county encounters a situation where a mental health advocate is needed, they call the 911 center, and the 911 center dispatches our person directly to the scene. ”It’s an approach that not only allows the responding police officer to better deal with the immediate crisis at the scene, but also can get the officer back in service more quickly.
In addition, Lawrence County also follows up with every mental health incident. “Our co-responder has a database where we can track every call, every case that we respond to, and we’re following up with those individuals. We’re following up to the point where we are holding their hand, making sure they go to the appointments.” More on this story here.