The Gainesville Police Department will add a new mental health clinician position after what council members described as a successful start to the program over the last year and a half.
In December 2019, the North Georgia Community Foundation awarded the department a $55,000 grant to hire a mental health clinician who would allow more specialized response for those dealing with a mental health crisis. That grant money is expiring soon, Gainesville Police Chief Jay Parrish said, so to continue the co-responder program, the department is receiving a $110,000 grant from the Northeast Georgia Health System Foundation and the United Way of Hall County to support the current clinician and add a new position through next year.
Parrish presented the grant proposal to Gainesville City Council Thursday, Oct. 28, and the council is expected to approve the funding at its Tuesday, Nov. 2, meeting.
The department was originally expected to receive funding from the Medical Center Open golf tournament, but the event, scheduled for Oct. 7, was canceled because of high COVID-19 case numbers in the area. The co-responder program will remain the beneficiary of next year’s golf tournament, and, Parrish said, that money could fund the program for the following three years.
“I think this program has been a huge success for our city,” Mayor Danny Dunagan said.
Councilman Sam Couvillon agreed, adding that there could be internship opportunities for college students in the area through the program as well. The department secured grant money to hire one paid intern in March to work with inmates in collaboration with the Hall County Jail.
Councilwoman Juli Clay said the program could be a policing model locally and nationally.