Chapel Hill Hosts National Co-Responder Conference, Focus on Mental Health Crisis Responders

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The third annual National Co-responders Conference, or CoRCon, was held this week at the Carolina Inn.

Nearly 40 workshops and breakout sessions were held June 6-8, with keynote addresses and events focusing on combining police intervention with behavioral health specialists.

More than 300 professionals from across the country attended the conference, organized and promoted by the International Co-Responder Alliance.

Co-response is a strategy used by some first responders and law enforcement that involves bringing in mental or behavioral health professionals to respond to 911 calls and crisis situations, with the goal of defusing and improve the quality of first responder interactions with the public.

Annie Burwell, public information officer for the CIFAR board, said national representation at the conference shows the country is beginning to accept co-response as a viable option for first responders facing challenges. behavioral health situations.

“For everyone involved in first response, to partner with the experts in the field, it’s really exciting,” Burwell said. “It helps us to offer the best services to people in an emergency.”

Burwell leads her local fire department’s crisis response unit in Round Rock, Texas, and she said she has had overwhelmingly positive experiences with the co-response model.

She said loved ones of those in crisis are grateful to be able to speak with mental health professionals instead of receiving a response from the police or fire department.

“Being able to keep people in their community, instead of transporting them to a place that may not be going to help them, is a wonderful feeling,” Burwell said.

One of the workshops on Monday was a presentation by the Douglas County, Colorado Youth Community Response Team. By having a law enforcement officer, mental health professional and case manager for each case, the unit has managed to have several hundred successful encounters and connect youth with health resources. mental.

The unit defined a successful encounter as one where no further action, such as sending someone to the emergency room, was required.

Burwell, who has experience working with teens with behavioral health issues, said she thinks co-response is the best option for young people struggling with their mental health.

“We know youth suicides are on the rise, we know there are issues with mass shootings, so of course co-response is a perfect model to meet some of those needs,” a- she declared. “For those high-acuity, potentially dangerous situations, co-response is perfect.”

Chapel Hill’s co-response team, the Crisis Unit, was founded in 1973. Its five social service professionals respond with officers to calls about domestic violence, death notifications and trauma, among other things situations.

One of the Chapel Hill Police Department’s newest crisis advisers, Jordan Hyler, said that in her six months on the job, she has already fielded about 100 calls.

“What we can do is target people who need a higher level of care,” Hyler said. “The more they establish a relationship with us as advisors, the more we can be that liaison to connect them to the resources we are able to ease the burden on our agents and hospital staff.”

In addition to answering calls with officers, Chapel Hill crisis counselors follow up with people, provide first responder training and administer the Criminal Justice Debt Program, which provides debt relief for fines and costs imposed by the courts.

“Every time our CHPD Crisis Unit Counselors are called into our community, we know they are making a difference and I am confident that the agencies participating in CoRCon will gain new insights into how they can provide the same level of service in their communities,” Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue said in a June 6 news release.

Chapel Hill Community Safety Public Information Officer Alex Carrasquillo said crisis counselors left the conference feeling inspired by the sessions they attended. He said they take pride in the work they do and enjoy learning from others.

“It’s exciting to see how quickly the field of co-response is growing,” he said.

@ethanehorton1

@DTHCityState | [email protected]

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