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ChristianaCare to staff New Castle Co. Police Behavioral Health Unit

via New Castle County Police Twitter

ChristianaCare has been tapped by New Castle County to help support the Behavioral Health Unit in the county police department. 

The county’s Behavioral Health Unit was created last year. It combines the Hero Help Program, which offers addiction treatment as an alternative to drug arrests in some instances, and a Mental Health Unit, which pairs a mental health clinician with officers to respond to certain calls. 

ChristianaCare’s Community Health team will hire a mental health professional, two case managers, a licensed clinician, a registered nurse and a child victim advocate to work alongside police officers in New Castle County responding to 911 calls. 

ChristianaCare Vice President of Community Health and Engagement Erin Booker says some of the staff will also be running a diversion program for substance use disorder.

“So someone is arrested for a low-level offense—they’ll be there to help connect them into treatment if they are willing, and really stay connected with them and provide case management and really support them through the treatment process,” said Booker.   

Booker adds if an individual having a mental health crisis is arrested, it’s more likely they’ll reoffend than if they receive treatment for their illness.

“Mental health and substance abuse disorder are medical needs,” she said. “There is no difference between someone suffering with depression and someone suffering with diabetes. It is a medical diagnosis, so we feel it’s important we treat it as such.”   

The county’s Mental Health Unit began in 2017, pairing just one mental health counsellor with one police officer. New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer says the “dramatic” expansion of the program is meant to, among other things, improve community and police relations.

“It channels resources away from traditional paramilitary type policing—guns and tanks, weaponry—and more towards support and treatment—the kind of services that I think are at the root cause of many policing incidents,” said Meyer.

ChristianaCare’s team of caregivers is set to start work later this fall.

The program is supported for the next three years by more than $2 million in federal and state grant funding.