The U.S. Department of Justice recently awarded $300,000 to the Athens-Clarke County Police Department to train local officers to better respond to incidents involving people who are having a mental health crisis.
Though the police are the grant’s recipient, the funding was awarded based on a joint proposal from a local planning group known as the Athens-Clarke County Justice and Mental Health Collaborative.
The collaborative intent is to help divert mentally ill offenders from the local justice system.
Key partners in this initiative include the police department, Advantage Behavioral Health Systems, the University of Georgia’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, the UGA School of Social Work and the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office.
The two-year grant addresses “two key areas in our response to justice-involved individuals with mental illness: A Co-Responder Program, and Mental Health First Aid Training (MHFA),” police said in a news release sent Tuesday.
“The Co-Responder program will incorporate a fully licensed clinician from Advantage Behavioral Health Systems who will work within the ACC Police Department,” according to the release. “The Co-Responder’s primary responsibility shall be to respond alongside a law enforcement officer on calls when mental illness is identified as a factor.”
According to police, MHFA is an international evidence-based program specifically created to provide knowledge of signs, symptoms and risk factors of mental illnesses and addictions.
“This training will support ACCPD sworn officers, criminal justice professionals, and other first responders by training them to identify multiple types of professional and self-help resources for individuals with mental illness or addiction,” the police stated in the news release.