Berrien County officials address handling of mental health crisis calls

Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 5:34 PM EDT
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BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. (WNDU) - When people are in a mental health crisis, police often get the call.

“It’s a very critical situation. It can be very challenging when it involves a mental health crisis,” Suicide Prevention Coalition Chairman Trent Watford says.

In Berrien County, mental health crisis calls more than doubled from 266 in 2020 to 536 in 2021.

“We want to understand if law enforcement is involved, how that is handled? And then what is being done in our community to try and help law enforcement with dealing with those kinds of situations,” Watford told 16 News Now Thursday.

And with the inevitability of more mental health calls on the way, the Berrien County Suicide Prevention Coalition sat down virtually Tuesday with several local law enforcement including Michigan State Police, 9-1-1 dispatchers, and mental health experts.

“There are some discussions going on. It is challenging in a smaller community with limited resources and one of the other challenges is there is a great shortage of people who are qualified and have the training and the certifications to do that kind of mental health help.”

While they may be just discussions, Watford says the county is considering moving towards assembling a mental health crisis team of their own in the near future.

“There is a shortage of qualifying people. We need the funding. It would take a community wide effort. The next step be for there to be effort put in place, a work group or task force, to look into this,” Watford says.

For more information regarding local resources, services or to reach out for help, folks are encouraged to visit the Berrien County Suicide Prevention Coalition website at www.berriencares.org.

Anyone experiencing a suicidal crisis or emotional distress, can reach out for help by dialing 988.

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