Nash County Sheriff’s Office using social workers to respond to appropriate calls

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NASHVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — Members of law enforcement have come under fire in recent years for lacking the proper training to respond to calls involving the mentally ill. So, what about pairing them with social workers

The Nash County Sheriff’s Office started a program to do just that.

Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone said his deputies are responding to an increasing number of calls for those with mental health issues, substance abuse, and developmental disabilities. When those calls come up, three social workers can now be called in.

“It helps out tremendously. Somebody is there to prolong that situation, de-escalate a little more, slow it down,” Deputy Ronald Stewart said.

“Mental illness, we don’t have the abilities or the skills to deal with these people long term,” Stone added.

The sheriff said they average one mental health-related call a day, but that doesn’t include transports.

The sheriff’s office partnered with Integrated Family Services to start the program. They just wrapped up their second week.

“We have responded to schizophrenia, family issues, alcohol, substance abuse,” said Brittany Hicks, one of those three social workers.

CBS 17 asked if she was ever concerned for her safety.

“No, I haven’t been concerned for my safety because most of the time law enforcement is already on the scene,” Hicks said.

If they feel safe, they let the deputy clear the scene. They get more time to work with the person and the deputy can head to another call.

“If they’re in jail or hospitals, it’s like their mental health needs are not being met, so they’re going to go out in the community again and eventually, possibly, do the same thing,” Hicks said.

“We learn a lot from those guys and girls, and we’re still learning,” Stewart said.

The sheriff’s office said the funding for this is coming from a grant from Trillium Health Resources.

In September, they’ll expand the partnership to include the county’s Department of Social Services.

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