Article originally published by The City of Frederick, June 23, 2021, by Ashley Waters. For full article, please visit The City of Frederick website here.
The City of Frederick and the Frederick Police Department are excited to announce the launch of a mental health co-responder pilot program that will commence on July 1, 2021. The FPD Crisis Car, which is a partnership between the Frederick Police Department, Sheppard Pratt, the Mental Health Association of Frederick County, Frederick County Fire & Rescue Services, The City of Frederick Department of Housing & Human Services, and the Frederick County Health Department, is designed to take a different approach to mental health crisis response in the Frederick community by prioritizing and leveraging the training of our community’s mental health professionals in collaboration with our first responders. The Crisis Car will pair a non-uniformed Frederick Police officer with a civilian mental health professional and an EMT/paramedic from Frederick County Fire and Rescue Services. This trio will work as partners in an unmarked police car, responding to mental health emergencies across The City of Frederick. When the team is not responding to emergencies, they will conduct follow-up visits and wellness checks on individuals. The car will initially be staffed weekday afternoons, with a goal to become a full-time assignment if the pilot program proves successful.
“Over the last several years, conversations have been increasing and ongoing regarding how a community can best respond to behavioral and mental health crises. As a City and Police Department dedicated to community policing, the launch of this program with the Frederick Police Department and our community partners exemplifies the essence of community policing in action,” shared Mayor Michael O’Connor. “The combination of law enforcement, mental health, and EMT services is a unique collaboration that I can see becoming a model for many other communities.”
Police officers across the country are called daily to respond to situations involving substance abuse, homelessness, and mental health emergencies. Officers often arrive at the scene of these calls to find the needs of the individual exceed the services that law enforcement is able to offer. While police are sometimes needed to evaluate and stabilize a situation, it is ultimately social service providers or mental health professionals, not law enforcement, who are best suited to address the actual problem at hand.
“We have to look for new and innovative ways to provide assistance to those in crisis. It is not fair to our officers nor is it fair to those in crisis to always rely on the criminal justice system. We cannot arrest our way out of this problem. The Crisis Car concept was designed to get resources to an individual quickly while still providing a measure of safety to everyone involved. I am excited and optimistic about this partnership,” shared FPD Chief of Police, Jason Lando.
Officers selected for assignment on the Crisis Car will also be offered additional training in mental health, crisis intervention, and de-escalation.
Scott Rose, Chief of Rehabilitation and Recovery Services at Sheppard Pratt joined Mayor O’Connor and Chief Lando for the announcement this morning, sharing his enthusiasm for the launch. “This program will allow us to respond in a way that recognizes mental health crises as a health concern. The uniqueness of this multi-disciplinary response with three professions ensures that our neighbors are protected by law enforcement, comforted by a mental health counselor, and healed by a medical first responder. Sheppard Pratt is very excited and honored to be part of this pilot.”