The Prince William County Police Department is launching a new program to bridge the gap in crisis management.
The police department now has a small team of what they call "co-responders" — three police officers paired up with three clinical mental health professionals.
“Someone in crisis could be one of the most dangerous calls that we go to,” said Officer Adam Beard.
Clinical mental health professional and co-responder Brittney Gerteisen shared she recently responded to a violent person at a homeless shelter and was able to calm the situation.
“We were able to get this person to another county and get them somewhere safe instead of having to go to jail ... It wasn't necessary at that time,” Gerteisen said.
Angela Kimball with the National Alliance on Mental Illness said these types of response units are becoming more common across the country.
“They're absolutely a step in the right direction,” Kimball said. “People with mental health and substance abuse conditions are disproportionately represented in our jails and prisons.”
Prince William County officials said they want the community to have faith that mental health services can arrive as quickly as police.
Given how frequently the three clinicians are used, leaders in the Prince William co-responder program said they are hoping the county will double the size of the team in the next budget.
"We are trying to make things different and make things better and make people feel more comfortable,” Gerteisen said.