Fairfield Police launch mental health network to fill service gaps

FAIRFIELD — The police department has launched a partnership that officials say will make it easier for people to access mental health, addictions and quality of life services.

Police Capt. Edward Weihe said the Fairfield Police Department established the Fairfield Police Behavioral Health Network as an important component of its crisis intervention program.

“In 2011, we established our Crisis Response Team, which trains our patrollers to recognize, respond to and appropriately resolve mental health issues when they arise in the field,” said he declared. “However, there are gaps between first contact with the police, transport to hospitals for assessments and the eventual return of the person concerned to the population. This is an area where the FPBHN is essential.

Weihe said the collaboration, which had its first meeting in March, is a network of local mental health agencies. Representatives from all organizations and departments meet quarterly to improve access and speed of access to a variety of mental health, addictions and quality of life services.

The new network includes the Fairfield Police Department, Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Community Mental Health Center of Greater Bridgeport, Child and Family Guidance Center, Crisis Response Mobiles, Operation Hope and Fairfield Senior and Social Services.

He said the network is key to uncovering the reasons for repeated police responses to a specific individual and to finding a holistic approach to limiting future occurrences.

“By collaborating with this caliber of partners, we create opportunities for mutual learning, pooling of resources, open communication, increased accessibility, etc. “, did he declare. “With this team approach, we aim to achieve a more thorough process and more comprehensive resolution of our mental health and addictions cases.”

Weihe said there are other collateral positive effects on the network, including reducing the frequency and intensity of behaviors that require police intervention. There is also a positive shift from focusing on punitive to proactive for mental health-related calls for service, as well as less risk of injury to officers or civilians.

“The target population would be anyone, and/or their families or caregivers, whose quality of life is significantly impacted by mental health or substance abuse issues,” he said.

Many conditions can lead to behaviors being reported to police, Weihe said.

“Whether a person presents as a danger to themselves or others, or simply has insurmountable attitudinal barriers to a decent quality of life, these issues eventually get noticed and reported to the police,” said he declared. “We have seen a sharp increase in all types of mental health-related service calls, which could be attributed to a number of life situations, ranging from the pandemic to the economy to socio-political issues. .”

Weihe said the establishment of the network is a current best practice. He said holistic, holistic approaches have been much more effective in these scenarios than the old “respond, resolve, move on to the next call” policing models.

There will be many forms of shared training experiences, both formal and informal. He said the department had recently trained six new CIT officers and there were new employees at some of the agencies participating in the program.

“We will begin pairing our new CITs with new employees at these agencies for occasional police travel,” Weihe said.

The department, along with the DMHAS Southwest Region, has also been accepted into a federal program that will allow for more training.

But the knowledge and training gained from the network and CIT will not be restricted to officers who participate, Weihe said.

The agents involved impart new knowledge and information in several ways. When a CIT officer volunteers to respond to a call for service related to mental health, he said, it exposes other officers to the approaches used, resources consulted and subsequent documentation.

“Often, key information about particular houses or individuals is recorded in our dispatch system for future reference,” Weihe said. “This way, all agents responding and engaging with the same person in the future will have access to important information such as triggers, calming influences, agent safety issues, etc.”

The network will also allow network officials to dissect their toughest cases. He said they can problem solve for a better response in the future by using a multidisciplinary approach, adding that what is learned from these sessions can be passed on to the department in different ways.

Weihe said the department has always tried to maintain a phased approach to all important trending issues, including its response to mental health and addiction. He said the creation of his CIT program in 2011 was the first step, but mental health issues are constantly changing, so the department’s approach must be as well in order to meet the growing and changing needs of the community.

“The creation of the FPBHN is another step we have taken to remain progressive in our approach, and we look forward to engaging with our new partners in this very important endeavour,” he said.

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