The Crisis Response Team is a bridge to mental health resources in Ottawa County
A crisis can be an elderly man sitting at the end of his driveway in the dead of winter with a sign that reads “Please help me”. A crisis can be a woman living in a mobile home that has been condemned or management worked with a state agency and got nowhere. A crisis can be a veteran with PTSD in an agitated state.
Law enforcement is faced with mental health crises on a daily basis.
“A crisis really can mean anything to anyone at any time,” says Frankie Badur, a mental health clinician with Ottawa County Community Mental Health and a member of the Crisis Response Team. county crisis.
The team, which formed nearly a year ago, helps people in mental health crisis and those who just need to be connected to resources every day – preventing a real crisis from happening. form.
The Ottawa County Crisis Response Team put the man in touch with a Veterans Navigator, Meals on Wheels and Adult Protective Services. They helped this woman leave her home that day and find mental health and medical care. They defused the situation with the veteran and offered resources to help him in the future.
“We act as a bridge between people and resources,” says Michele Sampson, a
Assistant to the Crisis Response Team at the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office.
Four organizations work together on the program: the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, the Holland Public Safety Department, the Zeeland Police Department and the Grand Haven Public Safety Department.
Time = greatest asset
Even pet complaints or domestic violence calls can have a mental health component, CIT officers say.
CIT agents can be specifically requested by other agents, dispatch, or the public. They wear a “soft” uniform such as a unit branded t-shirt and khaki.
The greatest asset of CIT officers is time, they say. While highway patrol officers must ensure they are available as soon as possible for the next call, CIT officers can take their time with every interaction, sometimes spending hours with one person, providing immediate response as well as planning. security, call tracking, connection to resources, etc.
“Trying to meet a bunch of different needs is like a full-time job for someone in crisis. It’s too much for them to do on their own,” says CIT program coordinator Tim Piers.
During the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, Ottawa County — like many places — has seen an increase in incidents of domestic violence and alcohol-related issues, says Sheriff Steve Kempker. Since the county began collecting statistics in October 2021, the mental health team has had more than 400 mental health-related interactions.
After more than three decades in law enforcement, Kempker says the Crisis Response Team is “by far, I think one of the best programs.”
In the past, he says, “often there was no follow-up.” By integrating tracking into the CIT model, fewer people with mental health issues are referred to the local prison system, Kempker says.
“It’s something we should have done years ago,” he says.
Ottawa County Community Mental Health Teams also work in the correctional facility, ensuring there is follow-up and resources once inmates are released. There is also a mental health treatment diversion program that allows people who have had multiple contacts with law enforcement, due to mental health issues, to receive appropriate treatment instead of entering the prison system.
Repeat calls are down
Mental health incidents are commonplace for law enforcement around the world, but repeat calls (multiple calls to the same address or to the same person in a short period of time) have decreased since the CIT program began, according to officials.
A $550,000 assistance grant from the Justice Bureau will fund CIT salaries and benefits for the next three years, as well as mental health training for law enforcement and dispatchers.
The CIT program is constantly expanding. Another MP could join the ranks soon, Kempker says, and MPs of all shits are getting some form of mental health training. (Fifteen, so far, have taken the extended 40-hour course; more will take a short course.) Dispatchers, paramedics and firefighters will be included in this training.
“The entire public service sector is coming together on this,” Kempker says.
The ultimate goal is to close gaps in the safety net, reduce the number of people incarcerated for mental health issues, and help them find the resources they really need.
“It’s the kind of help we would want for ourselves or someone we love in a mental health crisis,” says Piers.