Beacon Hill Bill Would Provide Mental Health Specialists On Police Patrols

BARNSTABLE – A bill sponsored by Second Barnstable State Representative Kip Diggs (D) and Seventh Essex State Representative Paul Tucker (D) would create a commission to consider employing full time mental health professionals for police departments.

They would assist law enforcement with individuals dealing with mental health crises.

“They are so important for us and they want to keep us all safe, but they also have so much on their plate that we need to help them out,” said Diggs on providing police with on-field assistance.

“We should have someone that is helping with mental health, it could be a specialty of some sort that a mental health clinician would know about that a police officer probably wouldn’t know about,” he said.

“It’s just putting things in categories so that we’re helping out and we’re giving them the best opportunity to succeed.”

Similar undertakings have already begun in Boston under former Chief William Gross, emphasizing close communication between police departments, hospitals, and mental health professionals.

Similar sentiments were echoed by Barnstable Police Chief Matthew Sonnabend, who said that while modern police officers are well trained to deal with situations they may face in the public, dealing with people that are in mental health crisis requires individuals with special training.

Although health offices are available during the day and some local departments have part-time mental health specialists, problems can arise in the long nightly hours when police are on patrol and mental health offices are closed, prompting the need for full time associates.

“Police work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and some of these offices just aren’t open,” said Sonnabend.”

“So getting individuals that are working alongside police and they’re there responding to actual calls when the people are actually in crisis and they need the help right at that moment is a key thing that law enforcement should be looking to in the future.”

Following passage of the bill, the special commission will have 180 days to report the results of the investigation to the State House of Representatives and State Senate.

By, Matthew Tomlinson, NewsCenter

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