New program pairs Metro police officers with clinician on mental health calls

Local News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Metro police will start a new program Monday where officers respond to mental health calls with a clinician by their side.

It’s the department’s first-ever Co-Response Crisis Intervention program in partnership with the Mayor’s Office, Metro Health Department and the Mental Health Cooperative.

“Unfortunately, when individuals experience a mental health crisis, often their loved ones or they themselves don’t know that there are resources out there and they call 911. When that happens [is] typically law enforcement is the first to respond. All too often, it’s a situation where the officer is not a clinician and while they do get good mental health training they’re gonna miss some things that a clinician would see,” said Mental Health Co-Op Senior Vice President of Clinical Services Amana Bracht. “There’s been a movement for a while across the country to enhance training for law enforcement and develop specialized teams of law enforcement responders along with co-response or clinicians.”

Bracht said it’s a program their organization has been pushing for over the years. They worked with MNPD to develop it, including researching similar programs in other parts of the country.

“We talked with some of our counterparts in Denver. Denver is a city of similar size and scope as Nashville. And they were incredibly helpful. They said they started with a crisis intervention team – so training officers and officers were the ones who responded. And then they started a pilot where it was two clinicians who rode with the officer and did the co-response plan and they immediately saw positive results by having the clinician there,” she said. “The officer could not only help in the de-escalation but the clinician could take it a step further and provide onsite intervention for the individual as well as connect them with outpatient care or follow up care.”

16 MNPD officers, including eight each from the North and Hermitage precincts, volunteered to be part of the program. Clinicians also volunteered to be teamed with officers in patrol cars on the day and evening shifts in those precincts for the next year. Police officers have been training for the program over the past several weeks.

(Courtesy: MNPD)

“The training not only involved traditional classroom training where we talked about details of how to recognize signs and symptoms of mental illness, drug addiction, but trauma – the impact of trauma and how somebody may react to a situation. We trained on signs and symptoms of dementia because that’s something they may see in the field,” said Bracht. “We came up with some real-life scenarios that we have all experienced in the field. And the officers practiced how they would engage with the individual, talk through, de-escalate, and then we critique them as clinicians and provided them with feedback. The other thing I thought that was very important to me when we did the training was that we bring in people with lived experience so people who’ve had mental illness or their loved ones, who came in, shared their stories with the class and explained to them how their loved one experiences a crisis, what it looks like for them, what it looks like for their family so that we develop empathy for what those individuals were going through.”

Metro police will evaluate the year-long pilot program along with the Mental Health Co-op before expanding the model across other precincts.

“We want it to be a resource for people who are in need. When people are in crisis, they’re vulnerable, they’re scared they need immediate treatment and we want to be able to get to those people and get them treatment,” Bracht explained. “I would hope that it in some way lessens the stigma. We’re getting a lot of attention which is great but there’s still a big stigma related to people getting mental health care and I think it’s important that we recognize that mental health is just as important as your overall health.”

If you or anyone you know is in need of mental health services there is help available 24-7. Just call 1-855-CRISIS-1 or text “TN” to 741-741.

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