Carrollton police team with mental health experts for calls

Carroll County is rolling out a new Crisis Response Team to handle 911 calls that deal with mental illness.  It includes a police officer who is also a trained paramedic teamed with a mental health professional.  

Chiquita Thomasson is about to trade in her uniform for plain clothes. The same for her Carrollton patrol car. No police markings. No light bar. As the police officer and paramedic on the new Carroll County Crisis Response Team, the goal is a softer approach to effectively deal with people who are having a mental health crises.

Thomasson will be paired with a licensed professional counselor whose job includes attempting to calm the person as well as to immediately navigate the many legal and healthcare challenges to getting the person the help they need.

It starts with the 911 call, where the dispatcher identifies the situation as a mental health crisis. The Mobile Crisis Response Unit will be dispatched in a plain white SUV, that will have undercover lights and sirens if needed.

Mayor Betty Cason says mental health calls can be both dangerous and expensive for everyone involved.  And can often end with the patient not getting the help they desperately needed.

The Mobile Crisis Response Unit will start the first of the year.  It’s timely as many cities across the country debate the proper law enforcement response to mental health calls that can lead to death, injury and arrest. Carroll County’s program has been in the works for over a year. And has been part of an overall effort on the part of the courts and law enforcement here that dates back to 2008.

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