RCSO Crisis Intervention Team on pause, in need of mental health professionals

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AUGUSTA, Ga ( WJBF) — A growing number of mental health calls lead to the creation of the Crisis Intervention Team last year.

The team paired an officer and a trained mental health professional to respond to calls.

“It was a relief having that extra resource riding with the deputies,” Lt. Danny Whitehead with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office said.

After just eight months the pilot program came to a halt after two mental health clinicians left their positions.

“It definitely makes it harder and tougher any time we’re going to a call whether someone has some kind of altered mental status or a severe mental illness or if they’re suicidal. So, when we had the clinician that was an extra resource that tool that we had,” Whitehead said.

Those positions have now been open since July.

While deputies do receive some training in responding to mental health calls, Lt. Danny Whitehead said  its not the same as having a mental health professional on scene.

“In some situations, especially if it’s a suicidal incident it can become a life changing resource.”

His hope is that the state, which provides the clinicians to the Sheriff’s Office will be able to get mental health professional back in patrol cars. 

“My hope is that the state is able to fill their positions where they’ll have enough manpower that they can start the program back up or if funding can be found somewhere within the county,” Whitehead said.

The team needs at least two mental health professionals to get back up and running.

Photojournalist: Chris Shipman

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