LPD teams up with Horizon Behavioral Health to improve response to mental health calls

LYNCHBURG, Va (WFXR) — The Lynchburg Police Department is teaming up with Horizon Behavioral Health to start what they are calling a “Co-responder” program in the Hill City.

The program will pair one trained police officer with a Horizon crisis intervention specialist– so they can better respond to mental health calls.

Lieutenant Greg Coleman with the Lynchburg Police Department says they’re responding to mental health-related calls on a daily basis.

“Just in the last three to five years calls for service involving anyone with a mental health crisis has dramatically increased,” said Lt. Coleman.

When someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, police are often the first people to arrive, but sometimes they are also the last people that someone struggling wants to interact with.

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Horizon Behavioral Health Clinical Director AJ Harold says this program will help get the person struggling connected with the help they need.

“The goal of the program is to really get the right person connected to the individual who is experiencing a mental health crisis and to try to get it de-escalated in the best way possible,” said Harold.

The partnership will pair an officer with a trained mental health expert who can provide better on-scene support for the person experiencing a crisis.

“To be able to try to get the mental health responders to the person in the community rather than try to get that individual to the mental health clinician,” said Harold.

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Lt. Coleman adds that right now if the person is taken to the hospital, it’s the officer’s responsibility to stay with that individual–drastically reducing the police presence in the community.

“They will have to sit with them for hours upon hours, which could turn into days, and therefore taking that police officer off of the street,” said Lt. Coleman.

He says on any given day they could have about half of their on-duty officers at the hospital, but with this partnership, the mental health expert will be able to stay with the patient while the officer continues working.

“Having a program that helps us get to that individual decreases the stigma around having a mental health concern or having some mental health symptoms,” said Harold.

LPD and Horizon hope to have the program up and running by spring or early Summer.

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