Chapel Hill hosts National Conference of Respondents and highlights those responding to mental health crises

The third annual National Co-Responder Conference, or CoRCon, was held this week at the Carolina Inn.

From June 6 to 8, nearly 40 workshops and sessions were held, with talks and events aimed at combining police response with behavioral health specialists.

More than 300 professionals from across the country attended the conference, which was organized and promoted by the International Co-Responder Alliance.

Co-response is a strategy used by some first responders and law enforcement, and includes bringing in mental or behavioral health professionals to respond to 911 calls and crisis situations in order to reduce and improve the quality of interactions with first responders.

Annie Burwell, head of ICRA’s Public Information Board, said the national delegation to the conference shows that the country is beginning to accept coherence as a viable option for first responders dealing with behavioral health situations.

“Getting together with everyone involved in the first response, meeting with experts in the field, is really exciting,” Burwell said. “It helps us provide the best services to people in an emergency.”

Burwell leads his local Round Rock fire department in the Crisis Response Unit (Texas) and said he has had very positive experiences with the response model.

He said loved ones in crisis are grateful when they can talk to mental health professionals instead of receiving a response from the police or fire.

“Being able to keep people in their community, instead of being transported to a place that might not help them, is a wonderful feeling,” Burwell said.

One of the workshops on Monday was the presentation of the Douglas County, Colorado Youth Community Response Group. With a law enforcement officer, a mental health professional and a case manager in each case, the unit has managed to have hundreds of successful meetings and connect young people with mental health resources.

The unit defined it as a successful meeting that required no further action, such as sending a person to an emergency.

Burwell, who has experience working with adolescents on behavioral health issues, said he believes coherence is the best option for young people struggling with their mental health.

“We know that youth suicides are on the rise, we know there are problems with mass executions, so of course, the co-defendant is the perfect model to meet some of those needs,” he said. “For those situations that can be very stressful and dangerous, the person in charge is perfect.”

Chapel Hill’s response group, the Crisis Unit, was formed in 1973. Five of its human services professionals respond to calls with domestic violence, death notices and trauma, among others.

One of the newest crisis counselors at Chapel Hill Police Department, Jordan Hyler, said that in the six months he has been at work, he has already answered about 100 calls.

“What we can do is target people who need a higher level of care,” Hyler said. “The more relationships they build with us as consultants, the more relationships we can have to connect to resources, the more we are able to relieve the burden on our officers and our hospital staff.”

In addition to answering calls with officials, Chapel Hill crisis counselors monitor people, educate first responders, and manage the Criminal Justice Debt Program, which alleviates debt related to court-ordered fines and fees.

“Every time the CHPD crisis unit consultants are called into our community, we know they’re making a difference and I’m sure these agencies that go to CoRCon will get new insights into how they can provide the same level of service. Their community,” said Chris Blue Chapel Hill police heads in a June 6 press release.

Alex Carrasquillo, head of public information for Chapel Hill Community Safety, said the conference was inspired by the sessions attended by crisis counselors. He said they are proud of the work they do and appreciate learning from others.

“It’s exciting to see how fast the field of respondents is growing,” he said.

@ ethanehorton1

@DTHCityState | [email protected]

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