California Police Chief- Fall 2013 - Page 30

• Those detained for mental health evaluations have had prior contacts with law enforcement for issues stemming from their mental illness .
• Many of those detained reached a crisis point because they destabilized ; they stopped taking medication , they were self-medicating and / or experiencing stressors at home .
• The majority of mental illnesses requiring a police response can be stabilized with proper medication and proper case management .
• Mental health services are not equipped to provide quick and ongoing case management for many of those suffering from a mental illness in our community .
• Few mental health detainees are contacted by mental health services after they are released . There is no emphasis on long-term case management to support them over time .
The Irvine Model is a proactive outreach approach that focuses on wrap-around services . Mental health related calls for service are assigned to our Mental Health Officers ( MHO ) in the same way that crime reports are assigned to detectives . These become an active case for the MHO and the goal is to make contact on every case . Our MHO ’ s work together with mental health professionals who are assigned to the program . The Irvine Police Department has partnered with the Orange County Health Care Agency and they have provided us a mental health professional that works directly with our MHO . The pairing of the two is the perfect partnership for our Mental Health Team ( MHT ).
The Mental Health Team does not normally respond to calls for service , but rather conducts outreach to those already known to need mental health support . The team travels to the home of many of the individuals to meet with families and determine if any challenges exist that might cause the individual to destabilize triggering a mental health crisis . Oftentimes connecting a family to available resources for support is enough to keep their loved one on track and out of crisis .
Another benefit of the home visit is the trust that law enforcement can build with the individual and his or her family . There is a perceived fear of police that if a family calls the police to assist with a mental health crisis , the police will either injure or kill their family member . Proactive outreach significantly helps reduce those fears and build long term relationships with families . Additionally , a proactive approach increases the likelihood those families will seek out assistance before a new , greater crisis occurs .
The Irvine Model is not a “ one-size-fits-all .” Rather , it caters to the specific needs of the individual as well as their family . Because the needs of the individual or their loved ones can be very diverse , the team focuses on the inclusion of a variety of County and non-profit agencies . The Mental Health Team has a licensed marriage and family therapist who is employed by the City of Irvine , who is able to act as a resource for these individuals should the need be there . In addition , a county clinician is also a part of the team , offering expertise in county services and assessments .
Once a month , they meet with a variety of stakeholders within the mental health community ( Adult Protective Services , CPS , Senior Center Social Workers , Investigators , Victim Advocate , Code Enforcement , and our Mental Health Liaison Officers ), to review cases and strategize new ways to assist individuals who may overlap into a variety programs . This collaboration allows for more succinct service , eliminates duplication of services , and ensures that individuals do not go unnoticed or “ fall between the cracks ”. When more than one organization is working with an individual , the team works together to ensure that everyone meets with the individual at the same time . This eliminates numerous home visits from a variety of agencies , minimizing confusion or contradicting action plans . The relationships we have fostered with professional care providers has helped fast track recovery for those who have been in crisis .
The Irvine Model ensures that once someone is identified as needing mental health support , they are quickly contacted by the Mental Health Team , who can then provide individuals and their support system with the resources they need in order to avoid a a larger crisis . This model also helps develop an organizational culture of care and support for those suffering from a mental illness . We can make a tremendous difference by expanding the role of every police officer to be a “ mental health advocate ” responsible for connecting members of the community who need support with the available mental resources . ■
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