After calls for social justice and police reform, more attention is being paid to helping law enforcement respond to people in mental health crises. In Prince George's County, an organization is helping first responders answer the call.
First responders need to know what to say and what to do when someone is breaking down.
“Especially with the pandemic right now, that’s creating a lot of stress and strain on individuals and their families. So, they’re presenting with a lot of challenges that need help,” Sante Group COO Michelle Grigsby-Hackett said.
Sante’s crisis intervention therapists are on call 24/7/365 to respond to calls for services via the county’s police radio dispatch, law enforcement or everyday citizens in need.
They have been working with the county since the 1990s but are expanding their efforts.
“That includes increasing mobile service capacity,” Director James Drake said. “That includes putting counselors in police vehicles and having officers that are specially trained.”
“We are going to try to meet as many of their needs as we can,” Drake said. “We’re going to create a plan on what we’re going to do in the next days, in the next week, the next month, and then we’re going to follow up and check on them.”
“Then in 3, 6 months down the line when the crisis is resolved, we’re going to check on them one more time to try to ensure and make sure they’re staying in a place that’s positive and a place that’s safe for them and the community,” he said.
Sante’s specially trained mental health professionals are also training other first responders.
County mental health statistics show that people who are in crisis are more likely to interact with police departments than with mental health professionals, often resulting in unfortunate outcomes. The hope is to form relationships with those in need and have better outcomes for first responders dedicated to saving lives.
Sante has worked with more than 250 first responders in the county.
Prince George’s County recently broke ground on a mental health medical center that will provide wraparound services. The project was funded with money diverted from the Prince George's County Police Department.
Correction (May 5, 2021 8:56 p.m. EST): This story has been updated to reflect Michelle Grigsby-Hackett's accurate title. She is the COO of Sante Group.