MURFREESBORO, Tenn (WTVF) — There are three people helping to make a difference in Murfreesboro, and they are mental health co-responders.
They go out on specific calls with police, helping connect people to treatment, shelter, medications and more.
Heather Noulis was the first to join the team last year. Now police department is announcing Sydnee Kucenski-Land and Kevyn Wilson.
"We've been able to divert so many away from the emergency department or away from jail," said Wilson.
When residents see Murfreesboro Police Department officer Brianna Dunn on patrol, they'll likely see her new partner, Kevyn Wilson.
Wilson is a licensed master social worker and one of the newest members of MPD's mental health co-responder crisis intervention team.
"Making sure that they have the ability to access immediate mental health care or immediate substance use services and not having to go into the jail system to receive those."
Co-responders have interacted with more than 280 individuals with mental health issues since the partnership with the Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System began a year ago.
Twenty-nine percent of the mental health-related calls were for individuals experiencing psychosis, 29 percent for suicidal thoughts and 12 percent for depression or anxiety.
"I think allowing them to see that I’m a safe person, that they’re able to talk to about their life and that they’re able to do that without the fear of there being any type of punitive intention," Wilson said.
So far, co-responders diverted 23 people from incarceration to treatment-based alternatives like inpatient and outpatient treatment.
There have only been six arrests out of the 280-plus interactions — most had outstanding warrants.
"Our goal isn't to enable them we're trying to assist and direct them into the next step when however small that next step may be. So if we can divert them from jail and get them into help, and then try to assist in taking their life further in whatever direction that may be," Dunn said.
Officer Dunn says she remembers one of those calls.
"It could have gone a different direction, but instead were able to get her to the hospital and then from there, she got the help that she needed and from my understanding, she's doing a lot better now. "
Sixty-five clients would have unnecessarily been taken to the emergency room for psychiatric evaluation if it were not for the mental health co-responders and CIT officers’ ability to assess and intervene in the community.
The City of Murfreesboro, Murfreesboro Police Department and Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System funded the two new positions through a $500,000 American Rescue Plan Act award. The contract expires June 2024.
All MPD officers receive basic in-service mental health training. Eighty-four officers are CIT certified; four are trainers. Dispatchers also receive mental health training.