Autauga County Law Enforcement Instituting Liaisons to Help with Mental Health Concerns – Elmore-Autauga News

By Hamilton Richardson

Elmore/Autauga News

Mental illness is a serious subject and learning how to help those suffering from it is a worthy goal, as recognized by the law enforcement community in Autauga County.

In a recent Autauga County Commission meeting, several members of the law enforcement community were recognized for training they have received as Mental Health Liaisons.

Probate Judge Kim Kervin, who helped to recognize the officers at the meeting, said that 12 officers have completed various training programs related to the field of mental illness.

“Without the appropriate help from our law enforcement officers in the city of Prattville and in Autauga County, we could not do our jobs,” she said. “Over the course of the past year, law enforcement officers have completed comprehensive mental health and de-escalation training, as well as worked alongside the Autauga County Probate Office to connect mental health resources with the individuals that officers encounter.”

Kervin explained that May is Mental Health Awareness Month and officers are usually the ones who come into first contact with people that are in mental health crisis.

“We are very fortunate in our county and in our city with the great leadership that they’ve taken on the role of giving programs for these officers, mental health training, degrees in mental health psychology,” she added. “The officers and deputies are helping us in trying to get better care for people dealing with mental illness and trying to keep them from going straight to jail, which is a burden for the county and a burden for their families.”

Cpl. Jerome Chatman, who has been with the Prattville PD for approximately 11 years, said that the Mental Health Liaison position is just in the beginning stages.

Chatman said his prior history has been helpful in his new role as liaison.

“I worked with the Department of Mental Health for 11 years,” he said. “I was an investigator and a trainer. I taught de-escalation, looking for early warning signs and investigating abuse in group homes.”

Chatman said that there are some very important aspects of the new liaison position which will help the community in variety of ways such as responding to calls where they may be someone with a mental illness or where someone has stopped taking their medication and is acting erratically or causing a disturbance. Some officers may not be aware of how to handle those people and those situations and the liaison can step in to evaluate.

“We’re going to help get people back onto the proper medication and to get back in a stable place, get them into a good home or into a safe haven,” he said. “Getting them help any way we can.”

Another benefit of the new role is that instead of booking someone immediately into the jail when there are other options based on their mental health status, the Mental Health Liaison can assist in making that determination.

“We can evaluate the situation to see where they need to go and to possibly prevent them from just going straight to jail,” Chatman said.

There will be a liaison on every shift, said the corporal, to handle situations 24 hours a day.

“Things are changing every day. Society is changing every day,” he said. “We have to understand more about mental health.”

The other officers beside Chatman who were recognized for their new role as liaisons included from the Prattville Police Department, Cpl. C.Brasie, Cpl. Devon Jackson, Cpl. Rico Hardnett and Cpl. F. Surls.

From the Autauga County Sheriff’s Department, Lt. Steven Geon, Lt. Mike Heath, Sgt. Clifton McGinnis, Capt. Larry Nixon, Cpl. Corey Smith and Sgt. JC Grant were also recognized.

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