The North Georgia Community Foundation named Gainesville Police as the recipient of a $55,000 grant that would help officers respond to mental health calls.
The opportunity grant would allow the department to “hire an on-staff clinician to assist police officers in responding to mental health calls,” according to a news release from the foundation.
“Having an on-staff clinician will allow for a more specialized response when dealing with those suffering a mental health crisis, creating a safer response for all involved. NGCF believes in the importance of mental health treatment in our community and are proud to offer the ‘seed money’ necessary to start this program,” according to the news release.
Cpl. Jessica Van said the police chief will have to go before the City Council to accept.
One Hall, a poverty-focused initiative sponsored by the United Way, and its behavioral health committee have been pursuing the possibility of having social workers work with certain patrol officers.
Dr. Monica Newton, who is an NGPG family medicine physician, co-chairs the behavioral health committee. The process began with a series of listening sessions with churches, schools, government and law enforcement.
Newton said this is especially important for those living in government housing, who can lose their space after an arrest.
“Your housing doesn’t just affect you. It affects the kids and everybody else that is there with you. You don’t even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your housing,” she said.
Newton said One Hall has also been working on a “community-based platform” similar to a charity tracker that would help agencies connect patients to resources, which would include housing and food.
The platform would allow agencies to see “where people are getting services and make sure there’s not duplication,” Newton said.
“If our law enforcement were to come across somebody that was receiving mental health services, they could quickly know who their counselor was or what agencies to contact about getting them back in for services in lieu of incarceration,” she said.