SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

February 11, 2013

Police partnership gets the mentally ill the help they need

(Continued)

“The mentally ill are being arrested unnecessarily for crimes they didn’t really mean to do,” Csogi said.

They’ve dealt with a suicidal person who overdosed on prescription medication, and a suicidal woman experiencing auditory hallucinations. In both cases, clinicians were able to divert these people away from an emergency room to a voluntary, community-based treatment program.

In another case, Csogi was able to divert an adolescent who had vandalized a school bathroom into treatment, away from the criminal justice system and a charge of destruction of property. She did so after visiting the adolescent’s home.

“No doubt, people with chronic mental or substance abuse problems often get arrested for menial crimes because there is nothing else we can do to solve the problem,” Ouellette said.

That is often the case when an individual does not fit the guidelines to be committed to a treatment program involuntarily.

“Sometimes, the police end up arresting him because there is nothing else they can do,” Ouellette said.

The program is based on one started in Framingham, but the Danvers program is the only one in the state to have a hospital, in this case Beverly Hospital, as a partner, Ouellette said.

The hospital was seeing elevated rates of hospitalizations due to mental health, substance abuse and behavioral health issues at the time Ouellette approached them about the program, said Gerald MacKillop, the hospital’s public relations manager.

“It’s not always appropriate for them to go into the justice system,” MacKillop said, “and it’s not always appropriate for them to be coming into the emergency department.” It becomes a safety issue for staff when someone with a mental health or substance abuse issue is sitting in the emergency room waiting to see a doctor or a nurse.

“We are able to take them out of that setting completely,” MacKillop said, “and get them into the appropriate setting of care, or we have the locked units at Beverly Hospital where we can get them in, get them to the appropriate setting.”

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