Social workers help address emergency calls

May 21, 2012

By Rena Malai, News Staff

People contemplating suicide, suffering from depression or experiencing severe panic attacks may call 911 to get help. But the sergeant of the Cheyenne Police Department in Wyoming says police officers may not fully be prepared or trained to deal with a mental health situation.

“Police officers are trained to find immediate solutions to a problem,” said Sgt. Stephanie Neuman, an NASW member with an MSW. “But in dealing with mental health emergencies, police officers don’t always know what to look for … communities deserve to have social workers address what the police officers can’t find.”

Some communities have recognized that it takes more skill to address these types of calls, so mobile crisis centers staffed with social workers have been linked to local police departments to help expedite 911 mental health emergency calls.

In Nashville, Tenn., the Mental Health Cooperative Mobile Crisis Center partnered with the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department more than 17 years ago to have 911 mental health emergency calls received by trained professionals.

According to Amanda Myatt, LCSW, and director of Emergency Psychiatric Services at the Mobile Crisis Center, the staff consists of 35 to 40 people who are either LCSWs or have a background in social work. The center addresses up to 5,000 mental health emergency calls a month and also handles an average of 500 face-to-face “calls” a month, where help is offered in person at the center’s walk-in facility or triage center.

Nashville police officers have the option to refer a 911 mental health call directly to the center or escort the person to the walk-in facility.

“Within an hour of someone calling 911 for a mental health emergency, a caller (in Nashville) can get help from us either over the phone or in person,” Myatt said.

From the May 2012 NASW News. NASW members click here for the full story.

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