by Terry Rogers
Recently, the City of Milford hired two behavioral health specialists to create the first Behavioral Health Unit working with the Milford Police Department. Currently, the unit has one full-time and one part-time member. A second part-time person will join the unit in the next few weeks.
“I just want to point out the number of diversions that have been performed by Jenna, our behavioral health specialist,” Councilman Mike Boyle, Chairman of the Police Committee, said. “As a direct result of her work, nine incidents that could have been more serious, people were taken to the emergency room, she was able to calm them down. We are already seeing the benefits of this position and this program.”
According to a document provided by Chief Kenneth Brown at a recent meeting, behavioral health specialists were able to divert four people from arrest, five from the emergency room and assisted 34 people with follow-up visits. The diversions included runaway juveniles, disorderly conduct, welfare checks and other reports that would have been handled by police officers prior to the establishment of the unit.
“I also want to add that what you are seeing in that spreadsheet is only Jenna, the full-time behavioral health person,” Chief Brown said. “It does not reflect the part-time person we have. From now on, it will reflect the whole unit and not just Jenna.”
Councilman Jason James, who suggested the establishment of a behavioral health unit in Milford, commended the chief for its success.
“I’m very happy that from the time I introduced this, it hasn’t been a long time in establishment from introduction,” Councilman James said. “From the chief grabbing it by the horns and getting someone hired to getting it funded. When I looked at the proposal, I can see that the idea was we would free up police time and would cut down the police officers time and the time a police officer had to sit in an emergency room with someone and getting them help quicker. So, this was a proposal for economic benefit as well and I think this is starting to point that out.”
During the meeting, City Manager Mark Whitfield also provided information on an opioid settlement that could result in Milford seeing $2.1 million in funding that must be used toward preventing opioid addiction or dealing with those who are addicted. During that discussion, Councilman James asked if some of the funds from the settlement could be used to offset costs incurred by the Behavioral Health Unit. Whitfield stated that his understanding was that some funding from the settlement could be used toward behavioral health.
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