Baldwin County SO and AltaPointe Health team up to fight mental health crisis

Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 4:12 PM CST
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BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WALA) - The mental health crisis in Alabama is only getting worse and with no state-run institutions left to help with the problem, more and more mental health patients are ending up in jail. There’s now an effort underway to address this issue.

A partnership between AltaPointe Health and law enforcement is focused on getting these folks the help they need before they end up in jail. The results so far speak for themselves.

Law enforcement in Baldwin County is facing a big challenge but one it hopes to overcome with proper training and resources. Deputies finished up an important training course Friday, January 20, 2023 which will help them evaluate and deescalate situations in the field involving subjects with an altered mental state or disorder. It happens often.

The goal is to recognize mental disorder early and avoid an escalation of force if possible
The goal is to recognize mental disorder early and avoid an escalation of force if possible(Hal Scheurich)

“There’s always some component that may be mixed in, potentially with every call. You just don’t know,” said Capt. Andre Reid with the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s undiagnosed or maybe they’ve been treated for a mental illness. If it’s a criminal offense, you know there’s a certain way we have to handle things. If it is not criminal, then we hope that you know, this training here today will help us deal with that.”

It’s not just the training to evaluate a given situation that makes it work. It’s the partnership with AltaPointe Health’s Behavioral Health Crisis Center and its 23-hour outpatient program that is getting people the help they need. If an individual hasn’t committed a criminal act and is recognized as needing clinical help, instead of an officer calling for backup, they can call in a trained crisis intervention health professional from AltaPointe Health.

“They learn how to talk to people, to convince them to go to that instead of having to go hands-on with somebody and then, you’ve got the risk of an incident of violence or injury to the officer themselves,” explained AltaPointe’s Dr. Cindy Gipson.

According to medical experts, mental health issues span a broad spectrum, caused by raging emotions to drug and alcohol abuse or clinical disorders.

There have been two recent examples where individuals with mental health issues prompted law enforcement to call in tactical response teams. In November, a Lillian man was taken into custody peacefully after Baldwin County deputies talked him down. Then, just this week Daphne Police were involved in a standoff which they ultimately backed down from to deescalate the situation. Captain Reid, who also heads up the Baldwin County Major Crimes Unit said they made the right decision.

“Kudos to the Daphne Police Department for making that tough decision that maybe they needed to step back, but once they make that determination, that’s just the right thing to do for everyone,” said Reid.

AltaPointe’s 23-hour program is already proving to be a valuable asset to law enforcement since being established in May of 2021. Since then, more than 300 individuals have been brought to the crisis center for help who would have otherwise gone to jail. Of those, Dr. Gipson said 90% have stayed on a mental health treatment program.


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