Lincoln Police Department teams up with therapists to respond to a mental health crisis

Did you know that a therapist is just a phone call away from any police dispatch? Here's how LPD teams up with CenterPointe therapists to respond to mental health calls.

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – A remote mental health crisis is incredibly traumatic for those going through the crisis, family members, and those who respond it.

In 2020, CenterPointe received a grant for $4 million over two years that enabled them to expand their mobile crisis response services, partnering with the Lincoln Police Department to make sure there is a therapist just a phone call away from any dispatch.

“An individual either in crisis themselves or somebody concerned about an individual would call into our dispatch center, the dispatch center would then send an officer, typically two officers at a time to a scene to get there, assess the situation, and really just talk and start building rapport with the individual,” LPD mental health coordinator Tim Dolberg said.

“When we get to the scene, we talk to LPD, see what’s going on with the individual, we can verify safety, and then at that point, if LPD feels it’s okay as well, they can leave and we kind of take over,” Centerpointe’s Crisis Response program director Amber Dirks said.

Dolberg says LPD fielded just under 3900 mental health calls in the city in 2020.

In partnership with CenterPointe, police officers have the ability to call a therapist to arrive on scene in 15 minutes or less, if they deem it to be necessary.

Dirks describes her approach to keeping victims of a mental health crisis calm.

“Going up to the individual, letting them know who I am, that I’m with the crisis response team, that I’m here to support them, that our goal is to figure out what their needs are,” Dirks said.

“There are times where we’re spending one to two, sometimes more hours, with these individuals, really just listening to them, talking with them, and really giving them options,” Dolberg said.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about 9.5 million U.S. adults experienced both mental illness and a substance use disorder in 2019.

“We understand that those two things go hand-in-hand and it may just be that it’s somebody looking to cope and find something to cope with those issues,” Dolberg said.

All Lincoln Police officers are equipped to respond to the scene of an overdose.

“If we’re under the assumption that an individual is suffering from some kind of overdose symptoms, we will administer Narcan and see what those effects are, while also monitoring the breathing and any kind of communication they may be providing with us as well,” Dolberg said.

It’s written into Nebraska law (state statute 28-472) that if someone calls into 911, whether they are experiencing the effects of an overdose or are with someone experiencing an overdose, that they are protected from future prosecution, provided they remain on scene and cooperate with first responders.

“I fear that individuals in our community are not fully aware that this state statute exists and fail to report due to fear of prosecution.” Dolberg said in a follow-up email to Channel 8. “If those in our community are more aware of this law’s existence, it could absolutely save lives by ensuring that medical personnel respond in a timely manner.”

Ultimately, Centerpointe’s Mobile Crisis Response is similar to its outpatient clinic: Calmly assess the scene, diagnose the problem through speaking with the victim, and connect them with services that may help.

“It’s really just trying to figure out where the person’s at, and just being with them with where they’re at,” Dirks said.

Categories: Lancaster, Nebraska News, News