Summerville Police Department rolling out new Mental Health Crisis Program

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SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCBD) – The Summerville Police Department has a new plan to tackle a surge of mental health calls.

Starting early next year, mental health crisis calls will be handled by two certified officers and a State mental health civilian technician.

 According to Lieutenant Chris Hirsch, the officers will go through a 40-hour class to become certified in crisis intervention training.

This new initiative comes after Summerville Police said mental health calls drastically increased during the pandemic.

According to data from the department, they received 407 mental health calls from March 2019 to February 2020. From March 2020 to February 2021, that number was 723.

Karen Oliver from the Charleston-Dorchester Mental Health Center said there a number of reasons behind this spike.

“The fear of making important decisions, whether to send your kids to school are some examples,” Oliver explained. “Increased isolation, loss of jobs, financial strain, and death in families related to COVID.”

The Mental Health Crisis Program was approved by Summerville Town Council earlier this month. It will be funded through the American Rescue Plan.  

“Having somebody that is able to speak and to listen, it’s really going to help out the town, and it’s going to free up some of our other officers who may need to go to different calls,” said Hirsch.

Police said they hope to roll out the program in January 2022.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, Oliver said you can contact the 24/7 Statewide Crisis Response line at 833-364-2274 or call 911.

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