Sun News: Police on front lines in dealing with behavioral health issues

Editor’s note: This story is part of a collaboration between NMPolitics.net, the Las Cruces Sun-News and KRWG News, supported in part by the Fund for Investigative Journalism, to examine southern New Mexico’s struggling behavioral health system. Listen to an audio version of this report.

Across the country, thousands of people facing behavioral health issues end up in prisons and jails. But they often encounter law enforcement officials before that happens.

During his many years on patrol, Lt. Shane Briscoe with the Las Cruces Police Department has been dealing with behavioral health issues. He says there are four common groups.

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“The ones that we deal with are depression, bipolar disorders, schizophrenic disorder, a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar — those are the categories that we really deal with,” says Briscoe.

Briscoe says LCPD is always evaluating whether the best tactics have been used. But he says the law enforcement community is constantly hitting the reset button in building new relationships with behavioral health providers.

“If it’s a change in administration it’s as if we almost have to start from square one in dealing with them again. We dealt with Southwest Counseling, there was a change there, and there are new providers that come into the area,” says Briscoe.

He also says with new providers coming to the area, it’s important to establish a relationship.

[…]

One thing Briscoe says could greatly help the community is having an operational crisis triage center. The county center has been sitting empty for years. It was built, but has never been used. Briscoe says he was involved with talks about the need for the triage center years ago.

“There’s been a lot of talk in the past years about a crisis triage center and it being available for law enforcement as a means to almost circumvent the need for response to our two emergency room,” Briscoe says. “That, if it ever came to fruition, I think, would be a great help.”

A great help for law enforcement and, advocates say, the entire community.

Read the rest of this important article.

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