SPD’s New Mental Health Unit Already Making an Impact

The Sanford Police Department’s new Mental Health Unit is being developed to respond to people in crisis situations. The Unit is comprised of Detective Colleen Adams, who is the Department’s new Community Outreach Coordinator, and York County’s OPTIONS  clinician Carly Flagg. (OPTIONS stands for Overdose Prevention Through Intensive Outreach Naloxone and Safety.) Although Ms. Flagg works throughout York County, she is based at the Sanford Police Department and is paid by Sweetser. She will work with the Unit to assist with substance use cases, and will occasionally be assisted by Det. Adams in calls to other York County communities if no local officer is available.

The MHU’s first full week of operation was a busy one, and shows the strong need for these services in our community.

On Monday, August 2, Det. Adams was dispatched along with a uniformed officer to assist a person experiencing crisis, trauma, and medical concerns. She spent two hours with the person discussing options and providing support. After developing rapport, the person asked to go to the ER where they received treatment.

Later that day, Det. Adams encountered a person suddenly homeless and needing assistance.  Several calls were made during a two-day period and housing was eventually located which suited the needs of the individual.

The Unit also responded to a person overdosing on opioids. The person was conscious, but in severe discomfort. The person initially did not want to go to the hospital. However, after speaking with the Unit, they agreed to be transported to receive medical treatment.

On Tuesday, Det. Adams followed up with the person experiencing homelessness on Monday. This person was transported to their new housing and began settling into their new living situation. She also fielded a call, and spoke at length about options, with a person who has a homeless family member in Sanford.

That same day, The Unit responded to a person overdosing on opioids.  The person was administered Narcan by EMS and regained consciousness. The person spoke with Ms. Flagg and agreed to meet again in a few weeks. MHU gave the family information on Narcan, and offered referrals to treatment and therapies for the family.

On Wednesday, August 4, a person without housing was unexpectedly dropped off in Sanford, and had nowhere to go.  A Code Enforcement Officer recognized that the person might be in need and contacted MHU for assistance.  Det. Adams met with the person, who did want assistance, and she was able to help connect them with the York County Shelter Program.

She also followed up with a person experiencing homelessness who initially did not want to meet. The person was hesitant about receiving assistance, but some immediate needs for safety and comfort were discussed, and food was given to the person. Arrangements were made to meet with the person at a neutral location, where they were provided with clothing made available through a partnership between MHU and North Parish Congregational Church.

On Thursday, Det. Adams followed up with a person experiencing homelessness who the Unit had contacted earlier in the week. The person was  given a water proof jacket and clean clothing from donations received by North Parish Congregational Church. Det. Adams continues to work with this subject on longer term solutions.

She checked on a person believed to be living in a tent, but the person was no longer there.

On Friday, August 6, Det. Adams met with community partners to introduce herself as the department’s new outreach officer.  She also checked on several people who are known to be experiencing homelessness, introduced herself, and offered them options and assessed their immediate needs/concerns.

The following is an excerpt from an email sent by the mother of one of the people MHU helped this week: “I don’t have the right words to wrap up how much I appreciated your help this week.  I wish I could individually thank all of you for the empathy you showed to my daughter, and me.”

Deputy Chief Eric Small said, “Det. Adams and OPTIONS Clinician Flagg are a valuable resource to the department and the city of Sanford.  In one week, together, along with police patrol services, they assisted two people into safe housing and another person with getting needed medical treatment.” He expects the MHU to expand further with the addition of an intern next month.

Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay