Shared mental health clinician begins service in Erving, neighboring towns


Staff Writer

Published: 05-09-2022 4:50 PM

ERVING — Clinician Leeanne Hadsel began her duty serving alongside local police departments last week, marking what she called a “cultural” next step forward in providing mental health services to those in crisis.

Motivated by a regional history of mental health-related crises and acknowledgement that police response might not be the most appropriate for such calls, the Erving Police Department reached out to departments in Gill, Bernardston, Northfield, Wendell, Leverett and Warwick to share mental health clinician co-response services earlier this year. The co-response clinical supervisor, who is employed by the mental health agency Clinical & Support Options (CSO), is currently tasked with responding to mental health-related calls with the aid of on-duty officers.

Should the departments receive grant funding, it would allow a designated police officer to accompany Hadsel to calls within participating towns. Erving Police Chief Robert Holst said he is unsure yet optimistic that a $90,000 grant award that would secure Hadsel’s long-term service will be received by July 1.

The model the towns are using follows the lead of one that Greenfield, Montague and Deerfield have collaborated with CSO on since May 2021. Greenfield’s Acting Police Chief William Gordon previously said the program has been remarkably successful thus far, noting that the involvement of a mental health clinician has resulted in a drop in arrests and “anywhere from a 50 to 75% drop in diversions to the emergency room.”

A Vermont resident responsible for founding one of Windham Southeast School District’s behavior intervention programs, Hadsel said she has nearly 10 years of experience working at the “intersection of trauma and challenging behaviors.”

“I have a pretty diverse background of working with people of all ages, abilities and demographics,” she said.

Hadsel said she decided to leave her former job and take this position with CSO because she was motivated by “so deeply (believing) in” the effectiveness of a co-response program that she knows “works out beautifully” in practice.

“For me, I think it’s a really logical progression, personally, in providing these supports,” she said. “In this context, I really think we’re bolstering the services that police departments are able to provide to community members.”

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The benefit of a co-response program, Hadsel explained, stems from how “diverse skill sets” between the two entities, paired with a “strong partnership of respect and trust,” considerably “bolsters what (police and mental health professionals can each) give to the community.”

“These situations can be violent, so to send a clinician to these unknown calls could be putting the clinician at risk for safety because the situation is unknown,” Holst noted.

“I feel like I wouldn’t be able to do this work so thoroughly without having the support of police departments because of safety,” Hadsel said.

“There are some times when we’re not the perfect solution,” Bernardston Police Chief James Palmeri said previously. “We shouldn’t be doing this by ourselves, and I don’t think clinicians should be doing this by themselves either.”

Hadsel began training and getting acclimated to the community last Monday in Erving, where she spent the rest of the week. She is expected to do the same for each participating town except Warwick, which lacks a 24-hour agency to oversee her patrol.

While she remains on-call as a co-response clinician, Hadsel said this introductory period consists primarily of relationship-building with locals via senior center visits, book readings to schoolchildren and other bonding activities with intentions of “reducing that stigma of mental health” and resonating with individuals “who might not necessarily be experiencing a crisis.”

“It’s really about providing that quality individualized care within the community,” she said.

Having been raised in Warwick before moving to Vermont, Hadsel said connecting with the area has an extra layer of personal investment involved.

“This is my home,” she said. “This is where I grew up. I’m invested in this community.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or