DEARBORN – The Police Department has collaborated with ACCESS to provide a full-time behavioral health specialist to respond, with officers, to situations involving mental and behavioral health crises.
Stacy Wetters, a clinical social worker and behavioral health specialist, has already begun her work serving the public, assisting police officers, and educating the department on appropriate mental health crisis response and resources.
The program is funded through a grant from ACCESS.
Recognizing an increased need among the community, Dearborn is one of few jurisdictions in the state to employ the co-responder or Police-Mental Health Collaboration model.
In recent years, with the backdrop of a global pandemic, the Police Department has seen an escalation in mental health calls – a 62 percent increase from 2020 to 2022 – and welfare check calls, which increased from 910 in 2020, to 1,139 in 2021, and 1,135 in 2022.
With the aim of improving the experience and outcomes of people in crisis, co-responders offer several advantages to officers and the community. A co-response unit can facilitate de-escalation in crisis situations, divert people from the criminal justice system to crisis support, and connect those in need with appropriate services.
“In mental health or substance use emergencies, I can help de-escalate and offer clinical expertise and interventions that an officer may not be trained in,” Wetters said. “I am also trained as a clinical therapist, so I can talk with people who sometimes are more open to interacting with someone not in uniform.”
Nationwide data supports the effectiveness of co-response for several outcomes: better officer safety, less use of force, fewer injuries to the community, more referrals to appropriate services for those in need, fewer arrests, and more jail diversions.
Officers who routinely interact with crisis specialists also become more aware of available community resources that provide treatment, services, and support.
Police-mental health collaborations result in ongoing community-based treatment solutions that enable the individual in finding lasting stability.
“With an overwhelming increase in mental health calls, there is a great need for this program in our city,” Police Chief Issa Shahin said. “Our co-responder will be able to provide not only an immediate response to such calls, but also the wraparound services and follow-up care needed by those experiencing mental health or substance use issues.”