CEDAR CITY, Utah (ABC4) – The Iron County Sheriff’s Office now has a mental health unit assisting emergency calls, after officials say they noticed a lack of resources in the community.
At least one mental health crisis call happens daily at the Iron County Sheriff’s Office, according to Deputy Brenda Pires.
“While I was out on the road and performing my duties, I noticed there was a little need for law enforcement to be educated on how to deal with those types of calls,” she says.
That’s when Pires brought the idea of a mental health unit to Sheriff Ken Carpenter.
“I do have several people in my family, that have dealt with some mental issues, different scales and spectrums, so I felt I was somewhat familiar with it because of my life experience,” says Pires.
Sheriff Ken Carpenter recalls a day just a couple of years ago, where every inmate booked in the jail, was on suicide watch.
“We had no more cells in booking left, because of the mental health issues,” says Carpenter.
Carpenter says officials aren’t trained to specifically deal with mental health calls and with slim resources in Southern Utah, individuals are left on the street self-medicating.
“We just have specially trained officers, that are more familiar with those types of illnesses and de-escalation skills and things like that,” says Carpenter.
Working with the Cedar City Police Department and a group home to expand mental health resources and form relationships with those in need, Pires and Carpenter have plans for these resources to grow.
“Work with the legislature, to get the funding to have the proper resources, so it doesn’t become a law enforcement only issue, and it doesn’t become an issue where the only place for these people to go is jail,” says Carpenter.
Pires says she would like to see a receiving center in Cedar City.
“A center that’s equipped with psychiatrists, therapists, things like that, so we can take that person safely to that facility,” she says.
“Provide a resource, to our community and to be able to give families hope, that there are people out there doing everything they can to protect their loved ones,” says Carpenter.
If you or a loved one need help in Iron County, call 911 in an emergency, or call the non-emergency dispatch line at 435-867-7550 and ask for the mental health unit.