Mental health experts help Montgomery police respond to crisis calls

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) – As violent crime continues to plague the country, Montgomery police have seen an increase in residents struggling with mental health challenges.

“We’ve seen a rise in issues with mental health and mental crisis,” said Montgomery Police Chief Darryl Albert. “We understand that’s a public health crisis.”

While mental illness can eventually spiral into something more severe, like crime, it is extremely common.

Carastar Health, previously known as the Montgomery Area Mental Health Authority, says one in five people are affected.

“Most people who have mental illness are not going to be violent,” said Donna Leslie, executive director of Carastar Health. “However, when somebody does have a mental illness, and it escalates to that point, it can quickly escalate.”

That is why mental health professionals want to fight the stigma and address it.

“So many people are suffering that they don’t need to be in silence when they can reach out and they can get help,” Leslie said.

Carastar Health just recently launched a new 24-hour crisis center. It is an alternative place of sanctuary for people who would typically be taken to the emergency room or even arrested for mental health or behavioral issues.

In addition to providing resources at the center, Carastar Health professionals work alongside MPD to help respond to crisis calls.

Police have a crisis intervention team with trained professionals who can go out on the scene.

“Then they work with us to try to defuse that,” Leslie said.

It is a partnership to help law enforcement get a grip on the mental health challenges that affect so many.

“We’ll do everything we can to get the word out and give people the guidance to get to the right services they need,” Albert said.

Mental health resources for Carastar Health and the Alabama Department of Mental Health are linked. You can also dial 988, a new national crisis hotline.

Copyright 2022 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.

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