Gwinnett County police expanding unit that responds to mental health crisis calls

For about a year, Gwinnett County police have been working on the way they respond to mental health calls.

Their Behavioral Health Unit has had a lot of success over the last year. It was created in July 2021 and by the end of this year, they are going to grow from two people to 12.

Gwinnett County Police Corporal Tracy Reed has more than a decade of law enforcement experience under her belt. For the last year, she has led the department's new Behavioral Health Unit, which specializes in mental health crisis calls.

"I've worked on some amazing units, and I've done some really wonderful stuff as a police officer and I have to say this last year has been probably the most rewarding," Cpl. Reed said.

Reed's partner is not another officer, but rather a licensed clinical social worker. Their goal is to take the police out of police response.

"It's great to have us immediately out there to help provide those de-escalation strategies and for the person in crisis to see that you're not just surrounded by police, we're bringing clinicians, we're bringing social workers," Cpl. Reed said.

Since the unit was created last year, the team has responded to hundreds of calls, including the Interstate 85 Greyhound bus standoff in March that they resolved peacefully.

"Not only is the police department and the county so invested in the program, but they're also willing to trust us to have a say in such a high-profile difficult situation," said Pej Mahdavi, a licensed clinical social worker at View Point Health.

Mahdavi has been a clinical social worker for about a decade. He said situations like the bus standoff are why the department is growing. They are expanding the unit from one team to six by the end of the year. The extra teams allow them to respond to calls seven days a week.

"I'm so happy this is happening because this resource is going out, but at the same time it's like, ‘Duh, we should have been doing this,’" Mahdavi said.

While their goal is to help everyone, they understand the dangers.

"We're also going to make sure we're keeping our clinicians safe and we're keeping our officers as safe as we possibly can," Cpl. Reed said.

The unit does not just help at the moment. They said they are also able to devote a lot of time following up with patients, to make sure they are getting the support they need.

Gwinnett County Police say residents of the county can contact them directly if they need help, in a non-emergency situation. You can email them at or call them at 770-513-5436.