Police Department Expands Mental Health Resources

In an effort to expand its care efforts and to reduce the stigmatization around mental health, the Chelsea Police Department now displays the three-digit 988 mental health crisis and suicide prevention number on its police cruisers.

This is the latest initiative from the department to address mental health issues in the city and the region, according to Police Chief Keith Houghton.

An estimated 703,000 take their life around the world yearly. For every one suicide, there are likely 20 other people making a suicide attempt and many more have serious thoughts of suicide. Several hundred of those are from the nation’s first responders and veterans.

The epidemic of suicide, as well as the stigma surrounding mental health continue to be barriers to those seeking help, leading suicide to be the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S. alone, Houghton stated.

Houghton continued that the city’s police department recognizes the need for a prompt adequate response to these crisis situations, as well as the need to utilize all available resources if someone experiencing a crisis is better served by other trained personnel who through collective efforts can assist those in need during these critical seconds. 

“As a police department, we are affected by suicide, losing Officers as well as the loss of our own family members,” Houghton stated. “In 2022, the U.S. lost over 150 law enforcement personnel to suicide.”

In the past few months, the Chelsea Police Department responded to several of these tragic calls for our citizens, according to Houghton.

“Fortunately, we were able to intervene early enough in several of the calls that had a positive ending but the potential loss of just one life is one too many,” he continued. “As one of the most visible public resources to our community, often the first to be called in moments of need or despair; we want the public to know that we are here for them rather than being seen as a barrier to prevent receiving the right services.”

As the result of recent change in policing along with an already overburdened mental health care system, the City of Chelsea Police Department established a Mobile Crisis Response Team comprised of mental health professionals who work in conjunction with the police department. The team works closely with police, crisis services, and our community based programs to support individuals as well as their families in working through crisis along with “postvention.” 

In the co-responder model, the police officers work together with behavioral health workers to respond to crisis calls and ensure that appropriate services and resources are provided. The goals of the co-responder model are to deescalate the crisis, prevent injuries, provide appropriate services, and reduce the number of arrests. 

“We believe that we are at the forefront of leading this initiative across the Commonwealth. To expand on our efforts of care, as well as to reduce the stigmatization surrounding mental health, we are now going to include the 3-digit numbers 988 on our visible patrol fleet,” the chief stated. “988 is the nationwide three-digit number for mental health crisis and suicide prevention services across the United States. It does not replace the current 911 system, you can call either number in a time of emergency to get the assistance needed.”

 Houghton said it is the department’s intent to provide the community the use of care continuum and resources they need for both prevention and postvention programs, be it the city’s first responders or the support staff in place through the HUB and newly formed Mobile Crisis Response Team.

“By letting people know that they matter and that there is hope, we all can do our part to help end this cycle,” he stated.

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