New Castle County police to expand behavioral health interventions through new unit
New Castle County Police are creating a new unit to address behavioral health issues like addiction with alternatives to arrests.
The New Castle County Police Department announced Tuesday it is using more than two million dollars in grant funding from multiple sources to merge two existing programs into its new Behavioral Health Unit.
The unit will combine the Department’s Hero Help Program, which refers people to substance abuse treatment rather than arrest them in certain cases, with the Department’s Mental Health Alliance, which pairs a mental health clinician with a police officer to respond to certain 911 calls.
New Castle County Police Chief Vaughn Bond says the Behavioral Health unit will add several new positions, including another mental health professional for ride-alongs, more case managers and a child victims advocate.
“Many children are affected by substance abuse disorders in their families as well as mental illness,” he said. “There’s a need for us to pay more attention to those children.”
State Rep. Valerie Longhurst helped secure state funding for the new unit. She called it another tool to fight addiction.
“The beauty of embedding medical and social service professionals within our first responders teams is they will help Delawareans in crisis right then and there,” she said. “Our police officers are often the first point of contact for individuals who are struggling, whether it be addiction or mental health.”
Joshua Thomas, CEO of NAMI Delaware, said he appreciates that New Castle County Police Department’s is continuing its “innovative approach” through the new unit.
“The path of least resistance is for law enforcement is to stay in that traditional role, and just keep putting people in handcuffs and taking them to jail,” he said. “But the reality is, for decades the criminal justice system has been the default mental health and addiction system. People ended up in jails that would be better served by treatment.”
New Castle County Police say the new unit should more than double their capacity to help those struggling with mental illness or addiction.