Branch County has a new level of mental health support — the Mobile Crisis Team from Pines Behavioral Health.
When a call comes into 9-1-1 Central Dispatch flagged as a mental health crisis, members a Mobile Crisis Team arrive on the scene to assist officers. They travel the county working with every law enforcement office — village, city, county and state.
Their goal is to work with the individual in crisis, providing emergency services to help them avoid going to the hospital or jail, said Mark Katz, diversion coordinator for Pines Behavioral Health.
Currently, there are three teams, one team for children and two adults. One team member is a master level clinician and the other, a paraprofessional.
The children’s team of Candi Moyer and Penny Weaver who respond to calls for individuals up to 21 years old, launched in October.
In January, the adult teams were added. Working in pairs are Samantha Hall, Lauryn Ritchie, Art McGuff and Kurt Spalding, for those 18 years and older. Currently, the Mobile Crisis Teams work only on weekdays, but soon they will add teams to also cover the weekends. Often mental and emotional crisis situations are often more likely to occur on weekends, Katz said.
The expanded service to weekends is the result of a $352,000 SAMHSA’s Emergency Response COVID-19 Grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for 16 months.
“This is a service that needs to be in place,” Katz said.
He is well aware of the need having worked for two decades in Branch County Juvenile Court before going to Pine Behavioral Health three years ago.
Katz, being a familiar face with law enforcement and the courts, has been crucial in setting the wheels in motion for the Mobile Crisis Team.
Joe Scheid, Coldwater director of public safety said “Our community like many others regularly face unique and difficult challenges related to individuals with a wide a range of mental health issues.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has not helped these types of issues, he said.
“The goal is give the officers another resource they can call on to help solve complaints involving mental health issues,” Scheid said. “It does not really affect what our officers do but hopefully gives them additional resources to help solve problems.”
Steve Johnson, Bronson police chief, is very grateful for the service.
“I actually called them out twice in one day,” Johnson said.
Officers were still at one mental health crisis when another call of the same nature came in.
First officers make sure the situation is safe, Johnson said, then leave the team to do what they do best — work toward the individual’s psychological well being.
“Mental health is not a crime,” Johnson said.
Katz agrees and that’s why it’s important to quickly get the person the help they need, he said.
Going to jail or to a mental health hospital is often not what is best for the person.
“I’m really glad to see this service available,” Johnson said.
The SAMHSA’s Emergency Response COVID-19 Grant went a long way in helping extend the service.
“We are grateful for this opportunity to be able to serve more people in our county, especially at such a critical time. This grant funding will help in making a positive difference in improving the health of our community,” said Sue Germann, CEO of Pines.