St. Clair County Police and Community Mental Health Strengthen Partnership

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The Port Huron Police Department has a new face, but this employee is not wearing a police uniform.

The department recently hired a masters-level clinician to provide in-house mental health support and services, a move that indicates a push in recent years by law enforcement and community mental health professionals to strengthen their partnership and provide a greater response in mental health and services to residents.

Kurt Meier, a social worker/clinician with the St. Clair County Mobile Crisis Unit, joined the Port Huron Police Department full-time last month.

While Meier and department officials are still working out the details of Meier’s role, he said he will respond with officers when they transfer residents to the hospital who are the subject of a health petition. Mental Health.

Deputy Chief Brian Kerrigan said Meier will also respond with officers in the event of an emergency or known mental health component to help officers respond to the situation, provide de-escalation techniques and provide mental health services to the individual or to individuals.

“Kurt can provide services that we can’t. When we have to handle a call, we usually put on a band-aid and then try to move on, where he can do a lot more than just put on a band-aid,” Kerrigan said. . “He can basically give a bit more time or follow up based just on the mental health component, freeing up the police to handle the criminal justice components or the response that we need there.”

St. Clair County Mobile Crisis Unit social worker/clinician Kurt Meier sits in a police cruiser before heading out on patrol Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022 at the Port Huron Police Department.  Meier joined the Port Huron Police Department full-time last month.

Meier said he will also follow up with people if he can’t respond to a call for service or to make sure people get the support they need. He is a wealth of knowledge and resources that anyone in the department can contact, Chief Joe Platzer said.

Platzer said Meier’s relationship with officers, whether it’s patrolling with officers or being available for questions in his office, has been a great benefit during his short time at the department.

“The other day, Kurt and I were talking in his office, and one of the officers came in and he said, ‘Hey Kurt, did you hear about that call we had last night? with so-and-so ?” “, Platzer said. “Just the interaction there is already paying dividends; the fact that the officers can go talk to him, get to know him and he knows the officers, and they build this partnership where they can exchange information and those calls are followed up on.”

Kerrigan said providing individuals with the mental health services they need reduces calls for service, as it can reduce repeat calls to the same home and prevent individuals from reaching a crisis point. By providing mental health services, Meier will also free up police resources so they can be allocated to other police priorities.

St. Clair County Mobile Crisis Unit social worker/clinician Kurt Meier (left) and Port Huron Patrol Constable Nate Tomlinson (right) sit in a police cruiser to discuss their patrol route before leaving the station on Tuesday, October 18, 2022, at the Port Huron Police Department.

The Port Huron Police Service’s program is a continuation of the service’s outreach and years-long investment in providing mental health resources and other community policing initiatives, Kerrigan said.

The partnership between mental health professionals and law enforcement has gained renewed interest in recent years, due to an increase in community mental health needs and a national focus on the role of law enforcement. order in the response to mental health emergencies, several officials said.

Several law enforcement officials and St. Clair County Community Mental Health Executive Director Deb Johnson said the partnership benefits residents because most of the time the police are the first person to respond to an emergency. This can only benefit residents when officers have the proper training and mental health professionals are also available to give residents the support they need.

“(CMH) programs help us stay educated and help us serve the public better because often when we get these calls the (residents) help we need is from a mental health professional, not necessarily law enforcement, so it allows them to get the help they need,” St. Clair County Sheriff Mat King said.

And each partner has their own role. King said if anyone is a danger to themselves or others, law enforcement is needed first at the scene to assess the scene and ensure everyone’s safety. From there, mental health professionals are needed to de-escalate, respond to the person who needs help, and connect them to the appropriate services.

St. Clair County Mobile Crisis Unit social worker/clinician Kurt Meier (left) and Port Huron Patrol Constable Nate Tomlinson (right) sit in a police car before driving off patrol Tuesday, October 18, 2022, at Port Huron Police Department.

“You can’t just send the police all the time because some of these people ultimately won’t need criminal charges but will need mental health help, and you can’t just send CMH because that individuals may be dangerous or commit a crime that must be dealt with by law enforcement,” King said.

New programs strengthen partnership between community mental health and law enforcement

Other recent community mental health initiatives in St. Clair County include the First Responder Crisis Line, which was launched in the spring of 2021. The 24/7 resource provides counseling , referrals and services for first responders experiencing traumatic events. every day as part of their regular duties, Johnson said.

Kerrigan and King said when officers and deputies have the support they need and are mentally healthy, it improves the service they can provide to residents.

Community Mental Health also offers mental health first aid training, which is available to all St. Clair County residents. Several area police departments, including Port Huron, St. Clair, Marine City, the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department and school liaison officers participated, Johnson said.

CMH also began offering new officer training in 2021, which is available to all county police departments.

County police departments also work with the Mobile Crisis Unit, which responds to mental health emergencies and provides services to people with mental illness. Individuals may be referred to the Mobile Crisis Unit by law enforcement, schools, other medical facilities, family, friends, or through self-referral.

Kurt Meier, social worker/clinician with the St. Clair County Mobile Crisis Unit, sits at his desk in his office Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022, at the Port Huron Police Department.  Meier joined the Port Huron Police Department full-time last month.  While Meier and department officials are still working out the details of Meier's role, he said he will respond with officers when they transfer residents to the hospital who are the subject of a health petition. Mental Health.

Johnson said that since fiscal year 2019, the Mobile Crisis Unit has received 140 law enforcement contacts for people already receiving CMH services, and 56 contacts for people not yet receiving services.

Johnson said the Mobile Crisis Unit receives contacts from law enforcement zero to six times a week, with eight contacts since early September.

Offer help

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency or needs mental health services, several resources are available:

  • Call the St. Clair County Community Mental Health Crisis Mobile Unit at (810) 966-2575; call their access line at (888) 225-4447 or visit scccmh.org/
  • Call Sanilac County Community Mental Health at (810) 648-0330 or visit their website at sanilaccmh.org/
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). There is also a crisis text line, text HOME to 741741 for free crisis advice.
  • Contact Meier directly at the Port Huron Police Department at (810) 985-0170

Contact Laura Fitzgerald at (810) 941-7072 or [email protected]

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