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ACCPD Police Chief on Mental Health Co-Responder Teams

Athens-Clarke County Police Department

Athens-Clarke County Police Chief Cleveland Spruill took part in a conversation with WUGA regarding law enforcement concerns in Athens, as well as challenges facing the department. While the discussion touched on a range issues concerning the department, one item garnering attention is the practice of sending mental health professionals on police calls. Those experts the chief says, are regularly deployed.

“I can tell you, we use them on a daily basis,” according to Chief Spruill, “And when they hear a call that they feel may be the result of mental health [or] substance abuse, they will interject themselves and try to find resources and programs and treatment to help those people rather than funneling those people towards incarceration.”

The Jerry NeSmith Behavioral Health Co-Responder program is a collaboration between the ACCPD and Advantage Behavioral Health. Spruill says the Athens program is an example for other agencies.

“It’s been an outstanding program. It’s been recognized regionally and nationally. A number of law enforcement agencies from all over the country come in or we send our teams out to show them how we operate and what we do. It’s been a very successful program.”

Chief Spruill says the department is working to increase the number of teams to seven by the end of the fiscal year. You can hear more from Chief Spruill on topics including crime, gangs and more on Athens News Matters this week.