MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – The Mount Pleasant Police Department (MPPD) is working to tackle mental health in the area with a new program. Trained police officers will connect mentally ill individuals to the resources they need after the initial police encounter.

“What we’re looking to do is make it a lot easier for people to get connected with non-police services,” explained Sargeant Katelyn Labrie, the leader of the new mental health team.

The program plans to utilize local mental health resources like Wake Up Carolina, an addiction recovery center, and the Navigation Center, which assists people with homelessness, to name a few.

Sargeant Labrie says there are many available resources through the department for on-the-spot assistance during an encounter with someone struggling with mental illness. These include a Mobile Crisis Team, telehealth appointments, and more. But, the problem comes later with the lack of follow-up.

“We have a lot of help that’s out there, but it’s hard for people to get the first step to really get in contact with where they need to go to get help,” said Sgt. Labrie.

That’s where the mental health team will come in.

“Being able to have people that are available to go help people with things like, if they don’t have transportation to a doctors appointment, or if they’re not necessarily someone who’s good at keeping track of things like ‘hey, you have a doctors appointment or you need medical attention or you have a therapy appointment,'” said Sgt. Labrie.

The program aims to break the cycle of repeat offenders, people the department sees often for low-level crimes, like trespassing. The department’s existing Habitual Offenders Program is being built on to create long-term solutions and include more than just people they see regularly.

“A lot of our repeat offenders, we deal with them multiple times for lower-level charges. Being able to stop and see what’s really driving their issues and if it’s something we can refer them out to a different service,” said Sgt. Labrie.

According to Sgt. Labrie, there has been an increase in mental health calls over the past five years in town. That’s part of what sparked the idea for the team. Another goal is to build trust.

“Make sure that they can get to those different services and also just to know that they have someone that’s following up with them in case they’re having issues. It’s not a ‘we dealt with you once, now we don’t worry about it,'” explained the Sargeant. “We’re following up, we’re building the relationship, where if you need help, you can come to us.”

The team is in its beginning stages and will slowly be built over the coming months based on community need.