LSF Health Systems (LSF), Mental Health Resource Center (MHRC) and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) recently implemented a co-responder program to help police provide timely assistance to individuals in crisis and deescalate challenging situations. A full-time mental health clinician from MHRC, funded by LSF and the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), accompanies a JSO officer in a marked patrol car to respond to calls involving individuals who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis in the community. The Jacksonville co-responder team, the third of its kind in Florida, is modeled after the successful program implemented by Meridian Behavioral Healthcare and the Gainesville Police Department, which was showcased at LSF’s inaugural Behavioral Health Innovation Summit.
“Having someone respond who understands the mental health challenges people face helps quell situations that may otherwise become tense. A key component of the program involves a warm hand-off from the Co-Responders to the MHRC Comprehensive Services Centers and outreach care coordination services, thereby diverting individuals from potential incarceration or Baker Act when appropriate,” says Dr. Christine Cauffield, CEO of LSF Health Systems.
The Jacksonville program was featured in a recent Florida Times-Union article and has already demonstrated positive results in the short time since it began. In addition to responding to calls, the team conducts follow-up visits to individuals they have previously encountered to ensure they have connected to behavioral health services. The co-responder team is currently focusing its efforts in areas of the city with the highest number of mental health-related calls. Additional efforts are under way to expand the program throughout the county with two additional teams pending approval of a federal grant request to the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program (JMHCP).