Leon County Sheriff’s Office establishes mental health unit for crisis calls

Leon County Sheriff's Office logo and crime scene tape
Leon County Sheriff's Office logo and crime scene tape(AP/WCTV)
Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 1:14 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Leon County Sheriff’s Office says it has created a new mental health unit to help people experiencing mental health crises or substance abuse problems.

LCSO deputies work directly with the Apalachee Center when working on this unit, the press release says.

The unit is made up of three teams, and each team has a full-time crisis intervention trained deputy and a crisis response specialist. The specialist on each team is a master-level counselor from the Apalachee Center.

The deputies in this unit have been specifically trained to recognize people in crises, communicate clearly and de-escalate situations.

“The teams will respond to calls for service, assess individuals and provide follow-up until the crisis is diverted or resolved,” the press release says.

Additionally, the deputy and counselor will conduct home visits, help identify people frequently in mental health crises and connect them with the services they may need.

LCSO’s Mental Health Unit will take a proactive approach, with the goal of reducing the number of deputy interactions with people experiencing a crisis, the release says. The deputies will wear a polo-style uniform and drive unmarked vehicles so it’s easier for them to approach people in crises.

Sheriff Walt McNeil says the mental health unit was a great opportunity to utilize the expertise of trained counselors as first responders to help Leon County residents.

“We have been working for a long time to create a system that helps improve outcomes of crisis calls and this is a first step in providing compassionate and professional services to our residents,” McNeil says.

The sheriff’s office says the unit launched in Dec. 2021. Since then, it initiated or responded to 257 calls for service, including follow-up visits. LCSO says the teams work overlapping shifts throughout the week from 8 a.m. until midnight.

The unit serves adults minors, and people experiencing homelessness.

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