COLLIER COUNTY - The Collier County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) recently announced that they have expanded the unit that handles mental health-related calls and connects people with the services they need.
“Under the direction of Sheriff Kevin Rambosk, the agency formed its Mental Health Bureau (MHB) in 2016 with four specially trained deputies and one mental health clinician from the David Lawrence Center. It recently added two positions: a certified deputy and a mental health clinician,” explained the CCSO. “The seven-member unit partners to connect individuals in crisis to resources to help address their physical and mental health needs and divert them from the criminal justice system. CCSO is one of only a few law enforcement agencies in the country with a dedicated unit aimed at helping individuals who are experiencing mental illness or substance use disorder.”
“MHB members provide external support for the community; participate in Collier County’s three treatment courts Mental Health Court, Drug Court and Veterans Court; are a liaison with the agency’s community partners; are essential with law enforcement assisted diversion; and provide internal peer support and critical incident stress management for all CCSO members,”
CCSO went on to explain. “MHB members are part of the Mental Health Intervention Team. This team, which includes corrections deputies and firefighter/paramedics, conducts wellness checks to ensure individuals have the resources and support they need to live productive and meaningful lives while keeping them from unnecessarily entering the jail or hospitals. They also assist individuals who might be in need of treatment. The added deputy and mental health clinician will serve on MHIT.”
A 40-hour curriculum, the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training program, is overseen by MHB, and provided to all officers throughout the agency. This program works closely with with the David Lawrence Center, local hospitals, and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in Collier County.
“CIT ensures that all deputies have the proper tools to handle a call safely and effectively when encountering an individual who is experiencing a behavioral health crisis resulting from mental illness or substance abuse. All MHB members are CIT-trained,” CCSO wrote, in a Facebook post, “MHB provides support to various bureaus in the agency for the prevention, intervention, wellness, and treatment of members in the community who are in need of support and services.”
An innovative diversion program known as Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, has also been developed through a partnership between the MHB and the David Lawrence Center, “The LEAD program allows law enforcement officers to redirect certain drug-related activity to community-based treatment services, instead of jail and prosecution. By diverting eligible individuals to services, LEAD is committed to saving lives, and improving public safety and public order.”
Among their many important tasks, the CCSO added, “The MHB is also responsible for gathering intelligence and filing with the court information on obtaining a risk protection order (RPO) in cases where it is believed an individual has the ability to be of significant danger to their self and the public. If the RPO is granted by a judge, the individual may be legally prohibited from possessing or obtaining a firearm for a minimum of a year. The bureau tracks and follows all RPOs while the order is active.”
The goal of expanding MHB is to address continued and future concerns, and improve services overall so the CCSO can better serve the needs of the community.