Milford police reduce arrests, connect community to resources with Behavorial Health Unit
MILFORD, Del.- “Anybody that’s suffering from mental illness, or a behavioral health issue is 16% more likely to be shot by police,” Chief Ashe said.
That’s a number Milord Police Chief Cecilla Ashe says their Behavioral Health Unit strives daily to tackle. “I think as a new chief coming in, I was very excited to see how progressive the Milford Police Department has been,” Chief Ashe said.
The idea was presented back in 2020 by Milford City Councilman Jason James Sr.
The unit takes a dual approach to responding to calls for mental health emergencies and other concerns. This involves a mental health physician riding along with an on-duty officer. They help provide training on how to identify behavioral health issues and de-escalation tactics. “It also prevents use of force as well as we’re now helping the ER. We’re diverting people away from the ER’s that are overloaded and working hard as well,” Chief Ashe said.
Within just two years, the unit has made contact with 958 individuals. There’s also been 72 diversions from arrests and placing those people into some form of treatment and 893 follow ups with individuals helped.
Despite this, Behavorial Unit Director Jenna Haines says they’re limited to what they can do due to the lack of resources. “It’s pretty much impossible to focus on their mental health and taking care of an addiction if they don’t have access to basic health care, housing, food, and more. It’s tough because we also have to meet people’s basic needs,” Haines said.
Both Chief Ashe and Haines say the community response has been positive.
They also tell 47ABC it’s a move that shows the city’s commitment to finding creative solutions to better serve the community. “We may make mistakes along the way, but it’s about how we learn from those mistakes not only as a profession but also as an organization here leading by example. We can show other departments you can do this,” Chief Ashe said.
The unit is currently made up of one full-time and two part-time clinicians. We’re told the goal is to expand staffing in the future.
Both city and grant funding help support the unit.