Police departments partner for mental health
By Kevin Elliott
The Birmingham, Bloomfield Township and Auburn Hills police departments will be partnering to create a mental health co-responder unit in cooperation with the Oakland County Mental Health Network in order to better provide crisis intervention response and follow up, it was announced at the Birmingham long-range planning meeting on Saturday, January 23.
Birmingham Police Chief Mark Clemence said departments have taken a “community caretaker” role well beyond traditional functions of law enforcement, including mental health emergencies, substance abuse and addiction, and other issues.
“Beyond our law enforcement function, we have a great deal of other things that we’ve been tasked with that make us become more of a jack of all trades,” Clemence said.
Clemence said he believes the department can improve on its social services by partnering with dedicated social workers to assist in response and take the lead on follow-ups on mental health crisis calls, such as attempted suicide and other calls.
Clemence said calls for suicides, attempted suicides, drug overdoses and other mental health emergencies make up a good portion of calls for service, but there isn’t currently a way of tracking all mental health related calls in the system. He proposed tracking those numbers as part of a partnership program with law enforcement in Bloomfield Township and Auburn Hills.
Under the pilot program, the three police departments would share a dedicated social worker from the Oakland County Mental Health Network who would be provided office space, a computer, phone and support. The social worker would ride with officers on related calls, as well as lead on follow-ups. Clemence said it’s the first time police departments have proposed providing a full-time social worker through the county organization.
The program also may allow for additional crisis intervention training opportunities, Clemence said.
Currently, the three police departments undergo mental health crisis intervention training at the county level., which is offered once a year. However, the mental health partnership may allow for additional training opportunities specific to the three departments.