3 police departments will share a mental health clinician

Three small police departments south of Boston – in Norfolk, Plainville and Wrentham – are teaming up with a social services agency to avoid arresting people with mental health or addiction issues and to ask them for help in place.

The goal is to redirect individuals who commit nonviolent offenses from the criminal justice system to “more appropriate community behavioral health services,” according to a statement from the cities.

The “Co-response Jail Diversion Program” is funded by a grant from the state Department of Health and pairs police officers with specially trained clinicians from an organization called Advocates. Clinicians are providing immediate support for people dealing with mental health crises and trauma, as well as follow-up resources, the statement said.

“When responding to calls, it’s very common for our officers to come into contact with people with mental health crises or substance use disorders who are in desperate need of behavioral health services,” said the Norfolk Police Chief Chuck Stone. “With the help of crisis clinicians, our services can ensure these people get the help and support they need instead of being directed to the criminal justice system.”

Wrentham Police Chief William McGrath said his officers “frequently respond to and defuse dangerous and volatile calls involving people with mental health, addictions and other conditions. Once a scene is [successfully] defused and deemed safe by the police, trained clinicians can then be allowed to enter and offer their valuable services.

“Without clinicians, the police are on their own to help track people in need and too often the connection is never made,” he said.

The three cities will share a clinician, who will spend once or twice a week in each city but will also be available at other times.

Advocates, which is based in Framingham, started its first diversion program in 2003 with the Framingham Police Department and has expanded to departments across the state including Marlborough, Watertown, Natick, Holliston, Hopkinton, Sherborn, Hudson , Sudbury, Franklin, Medway , Westborough, Southborough, Northborough, Lowell, Mansfield, Stow and Harvard, Sharon, Westwood, Marshfield, Duxbury, Norwell, Belmont and Shrewsbury.

Johanna Seltz can be contacted at [email protected].

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