Volusia County emergency dispatch adds mental health crisis counselor

There is a new program in Volusia County to properly handle 911 calls from people having a mental health crisis. Sheriff Mike Chitwood points to an increase in mental health reports and says too often they end tragically. The sheriff says about half of the 60,000 calls the dispatch receives per month are related to substance abuse or mental health. that they have a better chance of getting the right resources where they are needed. It’s the lifeline for callers who are in danger, tasking the person who answers to act quickly in hopes of saving them. “The person knows it’s a taped line and they leave their last will and then they kill themselves and the dispatcher is on the line,” Chitwood said. where that call comes in the minute that call ends, the results of a positive result, they’re exponentially higher,” Chitwood said. Angela Hardee, Crisis Care Manager for SMA Healthcare, has started her first week at the county’s 911 call center where she will focus on de-escalation tactics and helping the caller find the right mental health resources. “Stay on the phone with them until help arrives. Do whatever I can to make this person feel supported and heard,” Hardee said. And to remind him that someone cares about him. “You’re looking at better outcomes. You’re looking at less repeat hospitalizations, less repeat incidents of the same nature,” Hardee said. “The resources are there. We need a quarterback and for lack of a better term, Angela is our quarterback,” Chitwood said. Last year, Volusia County began submitting every carrier from 911 to three-day specialized training in emergency mental health. As this new program expands, they hope to add more crisis counselors here to help reduce the number of calls when a law enforcement response is required.

There is a new program in Volusia County to properly handle 911 calls from people having a mental health crisis.

Sheriff Mike Chitwood points to an increase in mental health reports and says too often they end tragically.

The sheriff says about half of the 60,000 calls received each month are related to substance abuse or mental health.

A new Crisis Advisor will help dispatchers so they have a better chance of getting the right resources where they’re needed.

It’s the lifeline for callers in danger, tasking the person who answers to act quickly in hopes of saving them.

“The person knows it’s a taped line and they leave their last will and then they kill themselves and the dispatcher is on the line,” Chitwood said.

Chitwood says that usually it’s the police who respond to these crises.

“If we could have a mental health professional here from the minute the call comes in to the minute the call ends, the results of a positive result, they are exponentially higher,” said said Chitwood.

SMA Healthcare Crisis Care Manager Angela Hardee has started her first week at the county’s 911 call center, where she will focus on de-escalation tactics and helping the caller find the right mental health resources.

“Stay on the phone with them until help arrives. Do whatever I can to make this person feel supported and heard,” Hardee said.

And to remind them that someone cares.

“You’re looking at better outcomes. You’re looking at less repeat hospitalizations, less repeat incidents of the same nature,” Hardee said.

“The resources are there. We need a quarterback and for lack of a better term, Angela is our quarterback,” Chitwood said.

Last year, Volusia County began subjecting every 911 dispatcher to a three-day specialized training in emergency mental health.

As this new program grows, they hope to add more crisis counselors here to help reduce the number of calls when a law enforcement response is needed.

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