OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Mental health professionals will soon join police in Oklahoma and Logan counties to answer some calls.
“It has worked in other states and we’re so excited to start it here,” Beth Combs of NorthCare Behavioral and Social Services told KFOR.
Combs talks about a brand new collaboration between NorthCare and the Oklahoma and Logan County Police Departments.
“They’ll call us when they’ve sort of looked at the situation and find out that we need to move in that direction and we will,” Combs said.
The program is called Champions. It is made up of a team of 25 counselors, professionals trained to help during mental health crises. They will join the officers on certain calls.
“It could be anything from officers finding a family living in their car who might need resources for housing. It may be a family that has suffered a lot of trauma and needs services for their children. There may be a homeless adult or an adult who just needs mental health services and they refer them to us, ”Combs said.
She said the goal is to keep people in situations like these out of jail.
The program receives some criticism, however.
Josh Higginbotham, who is on the OKC Law Enforcement Policy Working Group, has been pushing for a similar program that sends a community member with counselors to appeals, without police.
“You end up becoming social workers a bit more like police officers than the other way around. And it is still the same burden on police services as before. But now you’ve just got a kind of sticky situation that they have to navigate, which is one of the reasons we wanted something that was more community-based and was a non-police response, ”Higginbotham said. .
He told News 4 that a program like this is still possible in the future. He presented the idea and data from other US cities with similar programs to the task force.
As for NorthCare, they will launch their program at the end of January.
“It’s just important that we all come together as a community and help each other with our different strengths and talents that we have,” Combs said.
NorthCare hopes to hire 25 therapists to join its team. For more information, visit NorthCare.
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