Williamson Co. Sheriff partners with agency to provide mental health responders over the phone
Nashville, Tennessee (WSMV) – The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office is adding new resources to help you better respond to mental health calls.
The Sheriff’s Department has partnered with the Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System, which provides a mental health co-responder.
“Usually law enforcement is the first response, but if we go out there and work with Volunteer Behavioral Health and allow someone assigned to Williamson County to be dispatched, there is only so much we can do. He can come and help. Please contact your legislators until things settle down,” said Williamson County Sheriff Dusty Rhodes.
Rhoades said about 75% of people in prison have some sort of mental health problem. He said they weren’t criminals, but they needed help.
According to the sheriff’s office, he receives three to four mental health calls a week.
“The Natchez Trace Bridge, they’re doing construction right now, but some people are jumping off the bridge, and our bridge is jumping off it in counties and cities,” Rhoades said. “There are people who have suicidal thoughts on a daily basis, and these people need mental health help. That’s why we’re using this program.”
When surrogates answer mental health calls, they are no longer alone. They are accompanied by new mental health co-responder Alex McNichol IV. After deputies secure the scene, he intervenes.
“Mental health is a big book to read, and these people have spent years dealing with this issue and doing mental health training,” Rhoades said. It may take 80 hours.”
“Mostly my job is to assess. Is there a mental health crisis? Are we dealing with it and how best to deal with it?” McNichol said.
MacNicol provides wraparound care for those in crisis.
“So with what we’re doing, we hope to spread the message in our community that calling law enforcement about mental health doesn’t mean you’re going to jail,” McNichol said. “It means someone like me will come see you and find a replacement.”
Experts say this is the service Williamson County needs.
“Not all mental health is a crime. “My job is to find the best way to help them.”
“Benefits are number one. Hopefully they won’t go to jail. We are giving these people the support they need so they can live productive lives.” Rhoades said.
The sheriff’s office said it will be time for co-responders to work based on the time they receive mental health calls.
If that person is not available, a representative will be available with the Crisis Intervention Team.
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