Spartanburg police partnering with mental health counselor to serve community

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (FOX Carolina) – Spartanburg police are using a new approach to handle mental health calls. Since January, the department has been working with a mental health counselor to serve the community when addressing behavioral health concerns.

In news release sent exclusively to FOX Carolina News on Friday afternoon reads “We recognize how extremely fortunate we are to have additional resources for some of our most vulnerable citizens, said Chief Alonzo Thompson. “Officers are often called to situations where they encounter people who are in crisis. To have an option of pairing a mental health professional with our police officers helps to reduce the trauma and stress for those experiencing a mental health crisis, those who are victimized as a result, and the police officers who are trying to peacefully resolve those situations.”

The Spartanburg clinician assists with situations that appear to be mental health crisis calls. An additional benefit is having a dedicated liaison who assists police personnel in making referrals for mental health services.

“Typically, this is a long term thing,” said Major Art Littlejohn, public information officer. “And so, officers need those types of answers as far as dealing with it on scene; you know, when people are usually not at their best.”

The topic of mental health can be taboo and often overlooked. However, detrimental if not handled properly.

“‘They don’t belong in jail, they may not belong at the hospital. So, what can we do to help this individual?” Littlejohn adds.

Mental health brings about varying opinions. With everything that has happened in last two years as it relates to social justice, proper community policing has been a conversation at the forefront.

This partnership is with the Spartanburg Area Mental Health Center. The counselor, Heather Crutchfield has assisted with three calls so far.

When she’s on scene, her role is very specific.

“Assessing the situation, looking to see has there been any mental health history with us, what kind of services can we target to that family,” Crutchfield, mental health clinician with the South Carolina Department of Mental Health.

She counselor works every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at SPD. Just 24 hours a week.

The position is funded by a three-year grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina.

The news release also reads “The collaboration is based on a model developed out of Connecticut for a police-mental health partnership that addresses the social and emotional impact of violence and trauma. The primary focus of the grant is to assist victims of violent crimes (especially where children are involved), including domestic violence.”