RCSO Crisis Intervention Team on pause as state sees shortage of mental health professionals

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AUGUSTA, Ga (WJBF) – Responding to mental health calls without the help of a mental health professional can be difficult.

“Obviously, we don’t have the expertise that a clinician brings to the solution that we’re looking for,” Lt. Danny Whitehead with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office said.

That’s why the Crisis Intervention Team was formed last year. 

It paired a deputy with a mental health professional to respond to calls — but after just eight months that program came to a halt after losing the two mental health professionals needed to keep the team going.

“We know that there’s a tremendous need for licensed clinicians to be able respond along with law enforcement, ” State Director of Adult Mental Health for the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health Dr. Terri Timberlake-Brisco said.

Officials with the State Department of Behavioral Health said  they work with providers who fill those positions.

However, the pandemic has caused those providers to experience staffing shortages that have created challenges in filling positions across the state.

“Whenever our providers report that there are challenges that they are having it certainly means that there are individuals that may not be able to be supported to the full capacity that we would like,” Brisco said.

The State is offering grant funding to providers to offer incentives to recruit more mental health professionals.

“For that very point of ensuring that they have additional resources to both attract and retain necessary staff to do the work,” Brisco said.

As for the Crisis Intervention Team in Richmond County, state leaders are hoping to see it fully staffed in the future. 

“We want to be able to see staff who are trained, who are appropriately credentialed and who can work in the crisis response programs to make sure that persons are able to have their needs meet,” Brisco said.

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