Alachua Co. Sheriff’s Office partners with Meridian Behavioral Health

Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 6:32 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office is partnering with Meridian Behavioral Health to better serve residents in distress during calls.

The teams are made up of an Alachua County Sheriff’s deputy certified in crisis intervention and a mental health clinician employed by Meridian Behavioral Health.

This program is already in place, it has been in the works for a while now. It was launched in early June.

The team will ride together in the deputy’s patrol car responding to calls involving residents going through a mental health crisis, mental health illness, or situations that may be emotionally charged.

“You can watch the body language of the person that you’re speaking with relax and start talking to you and once they realize that you’re there to help them, it’s a very different response and then once that report is built it’s a big responsibility and if that’s our goal. They feel comfortable and they are reaching out to us,” Dr. Briana Kelley, who is employed with Meridian, said.

The Gainesville Police Department does have a similar partnership with Meridian that was launched in 2018.

“What we want to do is to learn from what GPD has done and also recognize that it’s not only the numbers, it’s the stories behind the numbers. The stories of the individuals in our community and what their needs are. If you look at the data it shows that depression is certainly an issue. Schizophrenia is more of a concern in a situation here that law-enforcement responds to,” Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell said.

Sheriff Darnell, who is running for re-election against State Representative Clovis Watson says this program is not a response to the recent calls for police reform sparked by the death of George Floyd.

She says it has been an ongoing discussion that has come into fruition with the program.

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