Mental health clinicians honored with annual CSO award

  • Clinical & Support Options’ (CSO) co-response team was honored with the Exemplary Team Award for its work during a ceremony at The Log Cabin in Holyoke last week. From left: Jessica Brooks (Ashfield regional model), Travis Maider (Amherst model), Leeanne Hadsel (Erving regional model), Kaitlin Richotte (Greenfield, Deerfield and Montague) and Jennifer LaRoche (CSO’s vice president of acute and day programs). COURTESY PHOTO/DEERFIELD POLICE DEPARTMENT

  • Mental health clinician Leeanne Hadsel serves the towns of Erving, Gill, Bernardston, Northfield, Wendell, Leverett and Warwick. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Mental health clinician Kaitlin Richotte serves Greenfield, Deerfield and Montague. Staff File Photo/MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer
Published: 12/7/2022 8:19:23 PM
Modified: 12/7/2022 8:19:01 PM

For the first time in the accolade’s 17-year history, Clinical & Support Options’ (CSO) Exemplary Team Award has been given to the organization’s co-response team for its recent expansions and associated success with having mental health clinicians respond alongside police officers to certain emergency situations.

CSO leaders sift through more than 100 employee-nominated contenders each year to present just a handful of awards. The nonprofit behavioral health agency celebrated its co-responders during this year’s ceremony at The Log Cabin in Holyoke last week.

“It’s growing,” Geoffrey Oldmixon, CSO’s associate vice president of marketing and development, said of the co-response program. “They work together, they pool their knowledge and they grow as a team.”

“Having co-responders in the community is definitely a step in the right direction nationwide, not just here in Massachusetts,” said Jessica Brooks, a CSO clinician who serves Ashfield, a host town, as well as Buckland, Shelburne, Goshen, Colrain, Conway, Plainfield, Rowe, Heath, Monroe and Hawley.

The co-response team, which spans Franklin and Hampshire counties, is made up of of clinicians who accompany police officers on calls involving mental health crises or emotional distress. Franklin County’s first co-response clinician, Kaitlin Richotte, was brought aboard in the spring of 2021 to serve Greenfield, Deerfield and Montague. Following what Greenfield Deputy Police Chief William Gordon previously described as a “complete culture change” associated with Richotte’s arrival, other area communities began to follow suit.

The Erving Police Department joined with Gill, Bernardston, Northfield, Wendell, Leverett and Warwick departments to participate in their own program, which began with clinician Leeanne Hadsel’s arrival in May. Most recently, Brooks began her service in the western hilltowns in August.

“I’ve worked with this team on various community projects and I can tell you they’re super engaged,” Oldmixon said. “They care about the community.”

“To be recognized as the exemplary team and to have the whole agency recognize what we do is really, really exciting,” Richotte said.

According to Jennifer LaRoche, CSO’s vice president of acute and day programs, the co-response team has been responsible for 65% of people, “a huge number,” being diverted from being brought to the hospital’s Emergency Department during a mental health crisis. It has also been responsible for diverting 80% of Section 12 psychiatric evaluation-related transports.

“Basically, I’m really proud of the program and the co-responders do a fabulous job,” Ashfield Police Chief Beth Bezio said. “We’re lucky to have them.”

“The work done with co-responder Kaitlin Richotte and CSO in Deerfield has been extremely beneficial for persons experiencing mental health incidents,” the Deerfield Police Department said in a social media post. “We welcome the program to continue to grow in our community.”

“I can only speak to Leeanne … but she just does an amazing job,” Erving Police Chief Robert Holst said of his experience with the co-response program. “She’s a hard worker. I really believe she has made a tremendous impact in not only Erving, but the whole community she serves.”

Aside from providing emergency response, mental health clinicians have been building strong bonds with residents through community bonding activities. Richotte said co-responders have been tasked with delivering food to seniors, reading books in schools, making friendship bracelets with clients and more.

Holst said that in the time since Hadsel began her work in May, he has received “nothing but positive feedback” from the community regarding the co-response program.

“They won (the award) because people we work with are seeing the good response from the community,” LaRoche, who leads the team, said, noting that CSO’s employee base of more than 700 people nominates winners each year.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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