Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $255,000)
The South Kingstown Police Department will partner with The Providence Center, a behavioral health organization and Thunderrmist Health Center, a federally qualified health center, to mobilize a countywide Co-Responder Team (CRT) in the communities that comprise Washington County (South Kingstown, Narragansett, Richmond, North Kingstown, Exeter, Charlestown, New Shoreham, Hopkinton, and Westerly). This cross-system collaboration program is intended to improve and enhance public safety and public health responses to individuals with mental health disorders or co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders who come in contact with law enforcement. Funding will support one full-time behavioral health clinician (Police Clinicians), who will respond to calls with trained CIT police officers in the Washington County area. The police departments and behavioral health centers recognize the need to address the lack of behavioral health resources and the consequent increases in behavioral health related calls to the police departments in the county. The goal of this project is to improve the police departments’ ability to respond to and follow up with individuals affected by serious mental illness and those who are struggling with substance abuse. Populations most at-risk for developing serious behavioral health conditions include people with lower incomes, domestic violence survivors, patients with dual diagnoses (mental health and substance use), those with trauma histories, and people experiencing homelessness. Given significant service gaps in Rhode Island’s mental health system, these populations face many barriers to receiving effective behavioral healthcare. These populations are also more likely to be incarcerated, compared to their low-risk peers. Funding will also support expanded training for officers so they may recognize signs and symptoms of behavioral health conditions and can effectively refer people in need to community resources. This project is intended to reduce the number of behavioral health visits to local emergency departments and decrease the number of "high-utilizers" of emergency services. Embedded police clinicians are qualified mental health professionals who will ride along with police officers and be an instrumental part of serving Washington County. Working together to address these crises ensures that people in need get the right care. On scene, clinicians and trained police officers will de-escalate situations and conduct clinical assessments to arrive at the most appropriate recommendation for the individual's care and safety. In many cases, a referral to The Providence Center's Crisis Stabilization Unit, a hospital emergency department, or other behavioral health provider will be a more effective and desired alternative to incarceration.