BRYAN, TEXAS — Three Bryan Police Department officers are now equipped to de-escalate a situation preventing a violent confrontation between a mental health consumer and law enforcement.
Bryan PD is taking a new approach in responding to mental health emergencies, putting residents at ease, while meeting community needs.
"The more they are educated on the issue, the better they can handle it," said Londie Campbell, life-long Bryan resident. "I am with it. I think it is great."
Since April of this year, Bryan PD has had a Mental Health Unit responding to mental health calls.
"I suffer from mental illness. I have PTSD. Major anxiety... major depression," Campbell said.
Campbell said now she feels a lot better knowing this new unit is on her side.
"So when the police come out, if they have knowledge on mental health, they can help us. Instead of taking us straight to jail, they can try to diffuse the problem," Campbell added.
"Mental illness is nothing new to America," said Kole Taylor, Bryan PD Public Information Officer. "Any time you turn on the news, nationally or locally, you see some kind of encounter typically between law enforcement and a mental health consumer."
Taylor said the three officers on the job have the qualifications and are passionate about the role.
"That was one of the key deciding factors in who they were going to pick. There were multiple officers that applied for this position within the department, but the three picked were the three that had the most drive and desire to actually get out and help people," Taylor said.
Bryan PD said, across the country, there has been a significant increase in the awareness of law enforcement interactions with people suffering from mental illness, interactions with the potential to turn violent.
"The Mental Health Unit doesn't wear a full police uniform, they have a more street look approach look that is a little less intimidating for anybody really and it doesn't necessarily make them look like a cop or an authoritative figure," Taylor said.
Officers are now trained to further de-escalation techniques and recognize how to communicate with someone in crisis.
The goal... to provide residents the resources they need.
"Instead of taking these people to jail, someone in crisis or a mental health consumer, we can find ways to keep them out of the jail system and find them the mental help they need," Taylor added.
Leaving those in the mental health industry thankful for this new approach.
"Police officers should be out here fighting crime, not fighting mental health. That really means a lot to me that they see the need," Nicole Butler LMSW, LCDC-I, ASOTP said.
The Mental Health Unit has responded to nearly 120 calls for service involving a mental health emergency since it began just three months ago. They have also completed around 70 home visits and nearly 200 follow-up phone contacts.