SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Unified Police Officers say they’ve responded to more than one mental health call a day since the beginning of the year.
For some, Utah can be a lonely place.
Jane Abercrombie says her loved one is somewhere in the state and she worries about him every day. She says he’s an adult who suffers from schizoaffective disorder.
“He has been homeless now for about four years,” says Abercrombie.
She believes the Unified Police Department’s Mental Health Unit is keeping her loved one alive.
Abercrombie says she’s been working with the unit for about seven years.
“They know him by name. They know what he looks like,” she adds. “This team is all familiar with him and his needs.”
The MHU was created to prevent someone from being locked up for mental health issues.
The department is working on more than 182 cases, crossing 16 municipalities.
Sergeant Jodie Sampson leads the eight-person unit and says, “This just isn’t a Unified Police Department’s issue.”
The officers can take over mental health cases from patrols. Each one is trained with advanced de-escalation tactics that can alleviate potentially violent outcomes.
“It starts somewhere, the crisis starts somewhere, mental health starts somewhere, and we try to get to the root of what really is going on, and then we work forward,” says the sergeant.
ABC4 took a look at the department’s Mental Health Related Calls.
In 2019, they responded to 2,724 calls.
In 2020, the call volume shrank to 2,484 cases. It’s not clear if the pandemic has anything to do with that.
In the first 52 days of 2021, the unit saw 71 calls. That’s more than one a day.
“We don’t only just go out, handle a crisis, and move on to the next one. We will do case management, we will connect them to resources, we do follow-ups, we knock on their door. We just make sure they are where they need to be and where the family needs to be,” Sgt. Sampson says. “In reality, if we don’t have the support of the family, that individual is not going to get the continual care.”
Abercrombie tells us, “I think that it could be real easy to disregard him, and just want to lock him up and keep him locked up, and that is not how he is treated with this unit. They want to see him get medication, they want to see him thrive and do well.”
If you would like to speak to an MHU officer to see what they can do for your family, call 801.743.7000.