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Police Officers Pair With Mental Health Clinicians In Franklin To Prevent Tragedy

FRANKLIN (CBS) - As outrage over police use of force continues around the country, Franklin police are using a program aimed at deescalating calls involving individuals with mental health conditions.

Called the Jail Diversion Program, run by Advocates, it pairs police officers with mental health clinicians. It is currently underway in 15 cities and towns in Massachusetts.

"There are statistics which most practitioners believe are underwhelming that seven to 10 percent of police encounters involve someone with a mental health condition. My experience is that it's closer to 50, 60 percent," said program director Sarah Abbott.

Franklin police
Clinician Kallie Montagano and Franklin Police Officer Tyler Peabody (WBZ-TV)

Franklin police officer Tyler Peabody and clinician Kallie Montagano have been partnered together as part of the program for nearly two years.

When a call comes in, Officer Peabody secures the scene. Then, Montagano joins him as, together, they work to slow the situation down.

"Talking to them. Listening. I find that's most helpful and I always ask, 'Hey, I've heard from this person or I've heard from your family member or I've heard from an officer what's going on. Why don't you tell me what's going on,'" Montagano said.

Afterwards, Montagano follows up with the patients and their families. Peabody and Montagano also have cause to celebrate. "Oh we fist bump," Peabody said.

One man, who wished to conceal his identity, said the program has helped his son who has suffered decades of police encounters, court cases, and hospital stays from crises linked to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

"I see progress in that at least he will listen. And not only listen but in some cases, at least take the action of saying, 'Oh, alright, I'll go to the hospital,'" he said.

Advocates reports that co-response programs divert individuals with a behavioral health condition 74% to 88% of the time. And, Advocates Co-Response clinicians divert, on average, 55 people a month from unnecessary hospital ER visits.

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