Since 2016, a Brien clinician has accompanied Pittsfield Police as a co-responder on calls that have a mental health or substance misuse component, successfully diffusing situations that have the potential to escalate very quickly.
Most of these calls involve people who are suffering from psychosis, who are suicidal or whose behavior is frightening or threatening to family members. In addition, we co-respond with police on drug overdoses, domestic problems, serious issues with children under the age of 18 and for other reasons.
Among our goals is to reduce the number of Section 12 orders for people who are brought involuntarily by police to the Emergency Department for further evaluation. With years of training in mental health issues and substance use disorders – and with further expertise in crisis response – our clinician can quickly evaluate the situation and de-escalate police involvement while providing needed crisis intervention services. In most cases, this essential care prevents an arrest.
In addition, 70% of these incidents are resolved without further evaluation at the hospital, sparing an individual with mental illness the experience of being brought to the emergency department by police in handcuffs. In the process, our partners in the Pittsfield Police Department have gained a much better understanding of the complexity of our work, and we now better understand theirs.
And we’ve learned from each other. We notice that police are now using language and tactics they’ve observed from our clinician. Our clinician now has a wealth of new information on how to de-escalate a serious event. Above all, people in our community who suffer from psychosis or other forms of mental illness that prompt a call to the police are receiving a far more compassionate and effective response through this invaluable partnership. We hope to expand the program to North Berkshire next, and eventually, to all of Berkshire County.