VANDERBURGH COUNTY, Ind. (WEVV) — The use of mental health professionals in police work continues to expand in the tri-state. Vanderburgh County sheriff’s deputies are partnering up with Southwestern Behavioral Healthcare to put an emphasis on responding to mental health crises.
Deputy Jarred Zwilling, a 5-year crisis intervention responder, said ”maybe it is the uniform that [those in crisis] don’t want to see.” During a mental health crisis, the presence of uniformed police can be intimidating and actively work against de-escalation. The new crisis response teams will insert plain-clothes mental health professionals into situations where they can be a calm, confident source of safety for a person in crisis.
Katy Adams, the President and CEO of Southwestern Behavioral Healthcare, told 44News ”[the man experiencing a mental health crisis] wouldn’t talk to the police at all, but the minute we got there, he sat down on the curb. We talked with him. We got him what he needed for that night and met with him each day after to make sure he was getting the services that he needed.”
Southwestern’s program with the Evansville Police Department is showing its effectiveness. According to Adams, ”our data is showing that only three percent of our co-response results with somebody going to jail.”
They’ll also be able to transport people to their crisis stabilization center, where they have five rooms available for those in crisis to receive treatment. All of these services and treatments are completely free of charge.
"For them to be able to come to the scene is a huge resource for us," Deputy Zwilling said. "These aren’t easy situations to figure out, so for someone with more experience to come to the scene and help that brainstorming process, maybe even take over. As long as we figure out what helps them is the best way.”
Deputies will work with 911 dispatch to determine if a crisis response team is needed, but the Southwestern crisis teams can be contacted directly at (812) 422-1100.
The agreement spans three years, after which it will extend for another year unless either party opts out.