Williamson Co. Sheriff partners with agency to provide mental health responder on calls

The Williamson County Sheriff's Office has a new resource to help with mental health calls. WSMV's Tosin Fakile reports.
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 6:16 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office is adding a new resource to better respond to mental health calls.

The sheriff’s office has partnered with Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System, which is providing a mental health co-responder.

“Law enforcement is usually the first response but there’s only so much we can do when we get on the scene and team up with Volunteer Behavioral Health and allow them to send somebody out that is assigned to Williamson County, and he can come in and assist the deputies until we get the situation calmed down,” Williamson County Sheriff Dusty Rhoades said.

Rhoades said about 75% of people at the jail have some type of mental health issue. He said they’re not criminals but need help.

The sheriff’s office said they get about three to four mental health calls a week.

“Natchez Trace Bridge, they’re doing work on it now, but we’ve had several people jump off the bridge and ours in the county and cities,” Rhoades said. “There are people contemplating suicide on a daily basis, and these people, they need mental health help. That’s why we’re using the program.”

When deputies respond to mental health calls, they won’t be alone anymore. They will have Alex MacNicol IV, the new mental health co-responder, along. He will step in after deputies have secured the scene.

“Mental health is a large book to read and these people dealing with this stuff, they spent years training with mental health,” Rhoades said. “The average police officer may get 40 to 80 hours.”

“Primarily my job is to evaluate. Is there a mental health crisis? Are we dealing with it, and how to best deal with?” MacNicol said.

MacNicol will provide wrap-around care for the person in the crisis.

“So, we’re hoping what we’re doing will put the message out in the community that calling law enforcement about mental health doesn’t mean you’re going to jail,” MacNicol said. “It means someone like me will come out to meet you and find an alternative.”

Experts said this is a service Williamson County has needed.

“Not all mental health is a crime. Maybe it’s someone have a PTSD moment or someone that’s having issue with schizophrenia because they’re not on their medication or the medication has plateaued,” MacNichol said. “My job is to figure out how best to help them.”

“The benefit is No. 1, hopefully they’re not coming to jail. We’re getting these people the help they need, and they can have a productive life,” Rhoades said.

The sheriff’s office said based on what hours they receive the mental health calls, that will be the hours the hours the co-responder works.

When that person isn’t available, deputies along with the Crisis Intervention Team will respond.