Councilman proposes Behavioral Health Unit for Milford Police Department
MILFORD, Del. – When dispatchers receive a mental health or substance abuse call, police officers are often the first ones to respond. But that could soon change in Milford if one councilman’s plans for a behavioral health unit move forward.
“In Delaware, in the United States in general, there is a definite increase in mental health issues and drug addiction issues,” Councilman Jason James Sr. said.
But if his plan for the new unit pans out, some of those issues could be addressed in a new way.
“If they have a clinical specialist that is the first contact, they can have an assessment and know what their needs are,” James explained.
The unit would be made up of mental health specialists, substance abuse specialists, and more. They would be the first responders, sometimes alongside police, to mental health emergencies or other similar issues. Chief Kenneth Brown says these types of calls aren’t uncommon for his officers to respond to.
“Homelessness, substance abuse, all of that is at the forefront of what we do today,” Chief Brown said.
With uniformed officers responding to these types of calls, Councilman James says it can sometimes escalate a situation right off the bat. But if the first person on scene is a specialist wearing normal clothing, James hopes that helps the situation immediately.
“Automatically the de-escalation has already taken place, or at least it’s not heightened by the visibility of seeing a police officer,” James said.
As for Chief Brown, he says while this idea is still in the very early stages, he’s hopeful that the unit will be implemented and ease the burden for some of his officers.
“We welcome it, and I think really it’s a direction nationwide that police are moving toward,” Chief Brown said.
Councilman James says he’s proposed a feasibility study to determine how the unit would work, the cost, and how it would be implemented.