How Cruising with Police Officers Works for Everyone
|Officers Joe Wasilewski and Greg Klocek with Lisa Roberts in front of the police cruiser.
Lisa Roberts, MA, QMHP, LCDP, is an asset to the Woonsocket Police Department, and they to Community Care Alliance. Every Wednesday, across two shifts, she rides in a cruiser and assists with people who are having a mental health issue or trauma-related experience.
She loves this work!
Lisa is a Master’s Level Clinician (MA) in Emergency Services at Community Care Alliance. Her credentials as a Qualified Mental Health Professional-- that’s the QMHP—gives her the authority to officially certify an individual who is a danger to themselves or others to an inpatient facility. She is also a Licensed Chemical Dependency Professional (LCDP) with knowledge of treating substance use disorders.
Lisa explains what certifying someone means. “We work together and do what we need to, to get someone help.
“So, if someone's a danger to themselves or someone else and they don't want to go to the hospital, the police, by law, can transport that person to the hospital. But sometimes it's helpful that I can certify them just to provide that documentation to the hospital.”
Katie Anderson, VP of Acute Services, gives a longer description of this process.
“Lisa is doing so much more than paperwork when she certifies someone. Lisa is helpful to police during emergency certifications because of her thoughtful and skilled assessments, her ability to build rapport, and her vast knowledge of behavioral health symptoms, diagnoses, and treatment options. So, while police can indeed bring someone to the hospital, it's not paperwork that holds them back: they often don't know when or why to do this—and that's where Lisa's expertise comes into play.”
|Lisa Roberts, MA, QMHP, LCDP in the office.
Outside of the Wednesday schedule, Lisa is available to give officers suggestions or come up with a plan for certain cases. She has also followed up with individuals that she’s asked to check in with, particularly someone who may be calling the Police Department a lot and seems to be struggling.
There’ve been circumstances where there's a mental health call and sometimes I certify people. Or I can encourage people to go to the hospital if they need it. Or, we can get people seen here at CCA, or we can coordinate with Thundermist. It's been helpful providing coordination in the community too—and just getting people hooked up with services who don’t know what is available.”
Lisa has been able to provide referrals to CCA programs including the Intensive Outpatient Program, Community Support Program, Safe Haven, the Family Support Center, and Child and Family Services. Coordinating with staff at CCA regarding active clients has also been an important function.
Lisa feels safe with these officers. She sits in the front seat of the cruiser. She says that, “if a mental health related call comes in, the officers always make sure that it’s safe for me to enter before I go in. And then, if it’s a mental health call, they let me take the lead.”
Lisa remembers that she has also protected children from the trauma of seeing a parents providing victim statements. She takes the child or children aside and distracts them from the situation. “Those are the kind of things I forget about, but I think that it is important.”
Community Care Alliance has a long history working with police departments to improve crisis response in law enforcement, going as far back as 1999 through our legacy organization, NRI Community Services. Richard Crino, former VP of Acute Services, was at the forefront of police and mental health organizations’ development of department trainings on mental health, developing the first crisis intervention certifications in Rhode Island. In 2013, Certified Crisis Responder Trainings (CCRT) addressed a need for specialized trainings in de-escalation and knowing the signs and symptoms of mental illness and drug-induced crisis management.
Today, our Community Incident Response, Consultation and Support Services continues to work across the state with police, fire and EMS workers to assist this workforce and their families with stressful work-related and personal problems that may arise that effects job performance, and health and wellbeing.
As a result of this work, law enforcement continues to evolve in its capacity to respond to mental health crises, a notable change in the last quarter century, as Lisa notes in our conversation. She gives high praise to the Woonsocket Police Department.
“They're so well trained and their way of communicating with people is very good.” There has been a lot of education regarding trauma awareness, substance use, and mental illness.
Cruising with the police could be more frequent, and maybe that will happen down the road. “We had asked the department if they wanted more hours and they are interested. So, we're kind of just working that out right now trying to figure it out.”
“Some officers have joked and have said, ‘you should be here 24 hours a day!’ It's been helpful to give people support. It’s traumatic situations for them [the police] as well. So, I’m able to offer support to them. Some guys have joked ‘Lisa’s my therapist!”