After the Webinar: Successful Mental Health Diversion Programs. Q&A with the Presenters

Webinar presenters John Snook, BJ Wagner, Dr. Margie Balfour and Shane Nolte answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Successful Mental Health Diversion Programs: What Law Enforcement Needs to Know.   Here are just a few of their responses.


Audience Question: What do AOT and CIT stand for?

John Snook: Those are both great questions, and they’re great because I know the answers to them. So AOT is Assisted Outpatient Treatment, which is a program that, the folks here from Baldwin County are one of the recipients of a Federal Grant. But there are programs all over the country. It’s a program that Texas and Arizona both use as well. Basically, what it boils down to, is court-ordered care in the community on the civil side, rather than the criminal side. So, if you’re familiar with how a mental health court works, it’s sort of similar to that but really focusing on keeping people out of the criminal justice system and using either a probate court, or it’s called something different in various states, but sort of that idea. And CIT is, of course, the Crisis Intervention Training. And that’s really that sort of the go-to, for helping law enforcement understand what it’s like to have a mental illness and to need for crisis response. It’s, as Margie said, we often talk about CIT is more than just training officers. It’s an entire program, and the goal is to really get the community engaged with law enforcement. You have those better outcomes.



Audience Question: How do the speakers expect the impending rollout of 988 to impact their current programs? And what are your local jurisdictions doing to prepare? 

Margie Balfour: In Arizona we’ve got a pretty mature program already with regionally centralized crisis lines, mobile team dispatches, collaboration with 911. So it’s more making sure that 988 is going to make a map to the existing system properly. And planning for how much the demand might increase. But we’re working with some other communities that are just sort of starting out where we’re helping them begin to think about how to link the crisis line to the rest of the mental health system. A lot of times existing crisis lines organically grew out of volunteer-staffed organizations and do great work as NPSL suicide hotlines.  But they haven’t been formally linked to the behavioral health system.  New functions like mobile team dispatch would be a brand-new thing for them, which isn’t required in 988, but it makes sense for them to do.

BJ Wagner: Well, we want to make sure when we’re working with our public mental health partners, that they’re prepared, of course, but we also don’t want to lose sight of the fact that we have a public emergency number that has been, you know, ingrained in folks for decades to use, and it’s 911, and that’s not going to go away with that, with a flip of a switch. And even when people become more accustomed to having the availability of using a 988 number for mental health emergencies, there are still going to be mental health emergencies that create concern for public safety. Or they’re going to be called that are disguised as public safety calls. Those are actually mental health —– when an officer arrived. So, we can’t lose sight of ensuring that our 911 system that is available to every member of our communities is also well equipped to serve every member of our communities, including those who are living with mental health care needs.

Shane Nolte: I agree with you. You don’t want it to get confused, and people think, Oh, well, I need to call this number instead of that one. 911 is always going to be there. You know, that’s part of my job, is to sort that out —– officer. Again, most of our folks have been trained and even our schools still as BJ said, there’s still teach in the 911 if you need police or you need medical or you want to, you know? I don’t think it needs to be any more confusing than what it is. I think we can put too much out there, start to muddy the waters. So, I don’t like necessarily having those numbers, and people are worried about calling the wrong number.



Audience Question: How do you all loop in Adult Protective Services? Is this part of your programs? 

Shane Nolte: It is not part of ours. Now, we do have some situations where we do have to get them involved, but in most of our mental health cases, we don’t have to wait. We’re able to give them done on our own. We do have that resource if we need it, I’ve got them on speed dials too. So, but at this point, we have not had to use them.

BJ Wagner: Really, it’s during the planning process when we approach all of our programs and innovations through a data-informed process. And so when we see that there’s a large number of calls that are usually related to nursing homes and group homes, and geriatric population, you have to really have Adult Protective Services and an advocate for those folks who have additional vulnerabilities. But we can’t wait until the officer arrived, at any cold calls, the 1 800 number. So, we encourage decision-makers from Adult Protective Services to be part of the planning process from the beginning, so that their services are baked into the pie if you will. And it’s an expected response to somebody who is in need of those protective services, instead of trying to resolve that on the fly.

Margie Balfour: Yes, I would echo that. We often end up needing to make referrals when people end up in crisis. And also, because we see kids, we work with DCS – Department of Children’s Services –  services quite a lot as well. We have a lot of kids that are in DCS custody and we need to collaborate with them closely to coordinate their placement and things like that. But we have that baked in to our processes, so for example, we have daily calls with them each morning to discuss the kids in our crisis center to figure what they need and how we can get them to where they need to be.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Successful Mental Health Diversion Programs: What Law Enforcement Needs to Know.  



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