(ELKHORN, WI): For individuals suffering from mental health crises, interactions with police and the criminal justice system are upsetting and have lasting effects. Law enforcement officers responding to mental health and substance abuse-related service calls have few good choices. Simply put, holistically addressing mental health crises requires long-term solutions and a specialized skill set. A new Walworth County pilot program aims to provide that expertise.
Known as the Embedded Crisis Liaison Program (ECLP), the pilot program places Walworth County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Community Crisis Liaisons (CCLs) on-site at designated law enforcement agencies during peak call times and on-call 24/7 to allow for real-time community access to mental health support services. The liaisons go on applicable calls with police, who secure the scene before deciding when it’s appropriate to hand things over. The hope is that this immediate, on-scene response will provide better outcomes for residents in need while providing police with better support.
“The pilot program’s success will focus on decreasing demands on police officer time responding to mental health and substance-abuse crises, reducing repeat involvement for individuals with mental health or substance-abuse disorders, and providing quality mental health care in the least restrictive environment,” says Walworth County Administrator Mark Luberda.
Based on historical population and crisis-response case data, the Cities of Delavan and Whitewater were selected as preliminary partners for the pilot. The first Community Crisis Liaison moved into the Delavan Police Department on February 1, 2021. The second liaison will start with the City of Whitewater Police Department on April 14, 2021.
“We anticipate that having an embedded mental health crisis professional located within our police department, working with our officers and out in our community, will serve as a force multiplier when we find ourselves working with individuals who are experiencing crisis,” says Whitewater Chief of Police Aaron Raap. “It should improve our response efficiency and enhance effectiveness when confronted with the myriad of mental health crises people experience.”
In addition to the services offered in Delavan and Whitewater, DHHS Behavioral Health specialists are evaluating ways to expand mental health support services for the Sheriff’s Office. Potential activities for the Sheriff’s Office may include consultation for serious situations that require the engagement of the SWAT team, preemptively de-escalating crises and follow-up in group homes, and enhanced mental health services at the jail. The Sheriff’s Office is located in close proximity to the DHHS and the in-house Crisis Intervention Specialists are available to respond on scene when requested.
To measure the program’s success rate, DHHS is working with licensed Psychologist Dr. Patric Mattek to analyze data related to the number of arrests, the amount of time law enforcement spends on service calls, and the number of hospitalizations for mental health and substance-use problems. This data will be used to better understand the program’s impacts and to help DHHS apply for grants to expand the program in the future.
For more information about DHHS, click here.