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PLACING EMPHASIS ON MENTAL HEALTH

An innovative BSO crisis response pilot program has been changing lives, ensuring the safety and well-being of our community and setting a new standard for effective mental health support.

Launched last year in Deerfield Beach, the BSO Co-responder Program pairs a licensed mental health clinician with a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) trained deputy. When a call for service involving a mental health crisis comes in, the team promptly responds to the scene together. The team further conducts follow-up wellness checks with individuals and their families who have recently experienced a mental health crisis, providing guidance, support and assistance with referrals for behavioral health services.

This combination of proficiencies enables us to provide enhanced de-escalation assistance and connect individuals with community-based social services and mental health treatment. When appropriate, we can divert individuals from the criminal justice system, ensuring they receive the care they need. We further provide deputies on patrol with timely and easily accessible clinical expertise as they encounter individuals with varied symptoms of behavioral health deterioration. This approach is built on the belief that helping individuals experiencing mental health crises benefits them and our entire community.

The results we have achieved over the past year have been remarkable. The positive outcomes include:

  • Reduced arrests: By addressing the root causes of mental health crises, we have seen fewer arrests related to these situations.
  • Diversion from the criminal justice system: Our efforts are diverting individuals from unnecessary involvement in the criminal justice system, allowing them to receive the help they need.
  • Significant increase in mental health referrals: We have substantially increased referrals to mental health services, ensuring individuals receive ongoing support.
  • Reduced repeat encounters: By providing comprehensive support, we reduce the likelihood of repeat crises.
  • Putting de-escalation into practice: In 100% of the co-responder's direct contacts with individuals in crisis, de-escalation techniques have been utilized to facilitate cooperation and preserve the dignity of all involved. 
  • Zero use of force: We are proud to report that this approach has resulted in zero instances requiring the use of force.

 
Daniel Gelpi is a licensed therapist assigned to the Co-responder Program. When he joined the sheriff's office in August 2022, he brought 25 years of mental health care experience. Working alongside Deputy Marcus Hall, a deputy in our Homeless Outreach Team, he immediately saw the benefits of this unique pairing. This method allows Daniel to provide quicker response and intervention for calls in progress compared to previous positions. Furthermore, he can engage in constructive discussions, allowing him to better connect with individuals who may otherwise be hesitant to seek behavioral health support.

"The value of this program is immeasurable," says Daniel. "Using the Co-Responder Model, law enforcement and mental health professionals are better serving the community."

Since its launch in Deerfield Beach, the program moved to Dania Beach for several months and is now being utilized in Cooper City. The idea is to move it around the county to gather data and information from a cross-section of the community to streamline and improve operations. As we continue to witness the positive impact of this program, we are eager to expand its reach and extend its benefits to even more members of our community. 

Together, we are establishing a standard for empathetic crisis response that places the needs of our community members at the forefront.

Sheriff Gregory Tony
Service Equals Reward