MPD to hire full-time Behavioral Health Specialist

Betsy PriceHeadlines

Milford City Council voted to approve the hiring of a full-time Behavioral Health Specialist for the Milford Police Department. The full-time position was a request from Chief Kenneth Brown who has been using a part-time specialist to assist the department for the past year.

“We need to expand this from a part-time person to a full-time person,” Chief Brown said. “We also need to add additional staff. This program has helped immensely but they are not there enough. Bringing in one full-time and hiring a few part-time to fill in additional hours will make a huge difference.”

Chief Brown explained that the new full-time person would not only work with behavioral issues that officers encounter but would also act as a victim’s advocate and would be trained in grant writing to try to obtain grants for additional funding for the unit.

“I believe after long talks with Lou [Vitola, Chief Financial Officer], this could be covered completely over the next two years using ARPA funding,” Chief Brown said. “We want to hire this person at $85,000 per year with full benefits and are asking for $50,000 in additional funding for part-time staff for the Behavioral Health Unit.”

Councilman Andy Fulton asked what the full cost would be with salary and benefits. Vitola stated that benefits increase the cost of employees by about 50 percent.

“Does this have to be full time?” Councilman Fulton asked. “When you figure benefits in, this is a $130,000 position. If we could do part-time, you could hire more people and have them work 30 hours per week, allowing you to have more coverage.”

Chief Brown explained that there were issues with using part-time staff for the Behavioral Health Unit.

“Finding someone who is qualified for this position is pretty tough,” Chief Brown said. “Second, when they work part-time, they often have another job so the time they can come in is very limited. We also would not be able to use them as a victim advocate or to write grants.”

Councilman Jason James stated that he had a scenario that would put this in perspective.

“A few weeks ago, we were returning home from vacation in Ocean City, and I saw all kinds of police lights in Bicentennial Park,” Councilman James said. “I walked over there and saw maybe four or five police officers addressing a man with mental health issues. They called the crisis unit, and they were told the counselor was on the way. In the meantime, while they waited, these resources were tied up dealing with this gentleman. After some time, they called again and were informed that the counselor was coming from New Castle. After this was over, as a council person, not a regular citizen, I asked them how this would have gone had there been a Behavioral Health Unit on staff. They told me this would have been resolved much more quickly as the counselor would have arrived, gotten the man where he needed to be with no need for stops at a hospital or a half dozen officers tied up at a scene for hours. This handles mental health issues much more efficiently.”

Councilman James also agreed that there is more of a push for mental health specialists in police agencies today and that he expects there to be more funding available over the next few years as more departments begin seeing benefits to these units. With the person hired also writing grants, Councilman James felt that there could funding available that would fund the entire unit outside of the city budget.

“I think we have talked about this before, making this a priority,” Councilman Todd Culotta said. “Having this resource available really takes the workload off the individual police officer and we are short-staffed as it is. There are considerations for long-term funding. This makes complete sense.”

The motion passed with a vote of six to zero as Councilman Doug Morrow was not present at the meeting.

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