Mental health expert to join some police calls in Hatfield, Sunderland, Whately

A part-time behavioral health clinician is expected to soon join police officers on certain calls handled by the Hatfield, Sunderland and Whately police departments. The grant funding was received by Sunderland from the state’s Department of Mental Health.

A part-time behavioral health clinician is expected to soon join police officers on certain calls handled by the Hatfield, Sunderland and Whately police departments. The grant funding was received by Sunderland from the state’s Department of Mental Health. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 11-07-2023 12:56 PM

HATFIELD — A part-time behavioral health clinician is expected to soon join police officers on certain calls handled by the Hatfield, Sunderland and Whately police departments.

With grant funding received by Sunderland from the state’s Department of Mental Health for the regional co-responder, the three communities will get 24 hours per week of coverage from the caseworker who is hired.

Hatfield’s Selectboard recently discussed signing an agreement that would provide the Hatfield Police Department the professional services from Clinical & Support Options (CSO), similar to what many other local police departments are doing.

Lt. Clinton Phillips said about 120 calls annually in Hatfield, and 300 to 400 calls in the region for the three towns, could use the help of someone with mental health expertise.

“We felt as if a clinical support person would have been a good person to have during those calls with us,” Phillips said.

The advertisement placed by CSO states, “This position will provide urgent evaluation, crisis assessments and interventions to individuals experiencing a mental health emergency. The co-response clinician is embedded in a police agency and responds with law enforcement to 911 and calls for services to people in the community who are experiencing a crisis.”

Because it is not full-time, the person would rotate through the three towns one day per week. During that day, the co-responder would be in the field or at the police station in one town, but would be transported to one of the other communities when there is a need there.

Phillips explained part of the work. “They can actually do an initial interview there, just as they would do at a hospital,” Phillips said.

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The grant provides up to $13,582.50 in wages in each community from Nov. 1 through June 30.

“This is where a lot of policing is going,” said Phillips, who has been in law enforcement for 20 years. “To have this opportunity, I think it’s going to be very beneficial.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.