Marshall County Commission wants to add more mental health officers to assist law enforcement

Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 9:07 PM CDT
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GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - It’s been a hot topic around the country, should mental health professionals respond with police to certain 911 calls?

When responding to emergencies, law enforcement is often faced with those who suffer from mental health problems.

To help on those calls, Marshall County leaders created a community health officer program more than 20 years ago. Now, they want to add more to their roster.

“It’s very important that there is an option when law enforcement encounters someone who is mentally ill and that doesn’t route them to jail or some sort of incarceration,” said Jeremy Burrage.

Burrage is a social worker at Mountain Lakes Behavioral Healthcare and is a community mental health officer for Marshall County.

He explained that when they get a call that requires a mental health officer to respond, they go to the scene and do a thorough assessment.

“They may be allowed to stay there; we may feel like it’s a substance abuse so we may look for substance abuse treatment, or they would go to jail if they have broken the law, but their mental state plays a factor in the that and they would be taken to an emergency room,” said Burrage.

Burrage said their main goal is to keep people out of jail and connect them with the right resources. He said two more mental health officers are needed to keep with increasing demand, making it five officers total.

The Marshall County Commission will vote on adding those new officers on Wednesday.

Mental health officers must have a master’s degree in behavioral health science, will receive additional hands-on training and will teach and train law enforcement.

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