Tewsksbury-Police Response to Persons Affected By Mental Illness: The One Mind Campaign

The Tewksbury Police Department is pleased to announce that they are one of only ten police departments in the State to complete a pledge they took to improve their response to those suffering from mental illness in their community. The pledge is part of an initiative called the One Mind Campaign started by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), a 30,000 member professional association for law enforcement that provides training, technical assistance, and recruitment services. To join the One Mind Campaign, law enforcement agencies must pledge to implement four promising practices in a 12-36 month period to ensure successful future interactions between police officers and persons with mental illness. Tewksbury undertook the pledge on June 19th of 2017 and finished in early May of 2019.
In the law enforcement community, mental illness has become a common focus, with some departments estimating that as many as 20% of their calls for service are related to mental health declines. Chief Sheehan made the decision to join the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s One Mind Campaign because despite organizational philosophical changes, best efforts, additional training, the application of best known and available police practices that include strong partnerships with all the local treatment programs/providers, the courts, correctional facilities, the District Attorney’s Office, and area nonprofit organizations the current mental health and opioid crisis continue to be the most significant quality of life issues affecting our community.
In completing the One Mind Pledge, the Tewksbury Police Department established a sustainable partnership with a local mental health organization, developed and implemented a model policy to address officers’ interactions with those affected by mental illness, and ensured that all of their officers received some type of mental health awareness training, with at least twenty percent of the department completing the more intensive Crisis Intervention Training. The 40-hour Crisis Intervention curriculum is designed by local agencies to train a team of specialized officers to respond to calls that involve individuals with mental health disorders such as depression or intellectual disability. The curriculum includes education on various de-escalation techniques as well as live role-play scenarios of officers responding to persons who need mental health assistance.
Other initiatives that the Tewksbury Police Department has pursued in response to the needs of the community include establishing a robust Community Service Unit made up of a mental health/SUD clinician, a recovery coach, a sworn Community Service Officer, a sworn Family Service Officer, and a SUD prevention specialist that staff the Tewksbury Police Department Bridge Program and Regional Jail Diversion Program (Billerica, Chelmsford, Dracut and Tewksbury). The two programs center around providing comprehensive services to address the mental health and substance use needs of families as a whole by assessing treatment needs, making recommendations and coordinating care for community members at risk. This is done through the support of the Tewksbury Police Department, Beth Israel Lahey Health Behavioral Services, PAARI, the Department of Mental Health and other community partners/resources. Ultimately bridging the gap between treatment providers, community partners, and the vulnerable populations in need of services, these initiatives increases awareness and education around behavioral health issues, including substance use disorder, mental illness, increased access to treatment and reduced recidivism.
We recognize we’ll never arrest and incarcerate our way out of this crisis and that participation in programs/partnerships such as the One Mind Campaign will only increase our chances of stymieing the progress of these diseases that bring families and communities to their knees.
For more information about the One Mind Campaign, please visit the IACP’s website: http://www.theiacp.org/onemindcampaign/. A list of all agencies who have taken the pledge is also available there.
The Tewksbury Police Department urges any citizens who suspect criminal activity to call the Dispatch Center @ 978-851-7373. If you wish to remain anonymous please call the Tip Line @ 978-851-0175 or send an email to tewks_detectives@tewksbury-ma.gov

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