Tackling Crisis Together — Law Enforcement and Social Services Cooperate on Mental Health Issues

Submitted by WHMHRB on Mon, 07/27/2020 - 11:18pm

By Emily Morgan / Staff Writer

Posted Jul 26, 2020 at 12:01 AM

Updated Jul 26, 2020 at 5:26 PM


A person with an altered state of mind can present in a multitude of ways. The individual may hear voices in their head that say hateful and mean things. A bad drug may cause an individual to become high strung, physically powerful and even to eat dirt.

“It happens all the time,” said Wooster Police Officer Josh Miller. “For some reason, this last drug that’s been going around. People like to eat dirt.”

Miller and his fellow police officers are likely the first to respond to scenes where someone is suffering from a mental health crisis or substance abuse issue. In many cases, they go hand-in-hand.

“When we show up, that can look like a mental break or it can look like they’re on some crazy drugs. We don’t always know,” Miller said.

The officer’s first responsibility is to deescalate the situation and make the scene as safe as possible.

“These scenes can be dangerous and unpredictable and having the ability to listen and respond in a calming manner are the key,” said Chief David Marcelli of the Ashland Police Department.

Once the scene is secure and the subject is stable, professional help from a mental health provider or substance abuse counselor may be only a phone call away.

Call the hotline

Several years ago, Wayne County conducted sequential intercept mapping to identify ways to keep people with mental health issues out of the criminal justice system. One result of the exercise was the creation of a hotline to provide immediate assistance.

The Counseling Center of Wayne and Holmes Counties established a 24-hour crisis hotline to immediately connect with a trained mental health professional. OneEighty also provides several 24-hour hotlines to help people experiencing a substance abuse crisis.

The hotline was originally established as a resource for law enforcement to connect people in need to professional help while on scene. Officers also could use a tablet to conduct a face to face call with a specialist, but Officer Philip Coe of the Wooster Police Department found most subjects shied away from the telehealth option.

Even if a subject refuses to speak with someone, Coe still will call the hotline to let a counselor know the individual may reach out in the future.

“We are very fortunate in this community, when we need an additional resource, we can literally pick up the phone and get some folks connected,” said Assistant Chief Scott Rotolo of the Wooster Police Department. “That’s what it’s about — connecting people with the resources that they need.”

The hotline numbers are now available to the public.

The number for the Counseling Center crisis hotline is 330-264-9029. To speak with a treatment navigator call 330-466-0678 in Wayne County or 330-439-9567 in Holmes County. The Peer Recovery Hotline connects callers with a trained staff member that has a lived experience with substance abuse and is available at 330-464-1423.

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