The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office Communications Center gains a new mental health crisis counselor to work with dispatchers.
Written by Kristen Schmutz
Belden Communications News
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office and Communications Center is proud to welcome Angela Hardee, a newly hired mental health crisis counselor from SMA Healthcare. As a crisis care manager embedded inside the Communications Center, Hardee will further assist dispatchers in routing specific calls to the right mental health care provider.
“If we have a mental health counselor on the call from the beginning, we have a better chance at getting the right resources where they are needed right away,” Sheriff Mike Chitwood said of the program. “Our dispatchers, deputies, and police do an incredible job handling these calls day in and day out, and this is one way we can help make the system work better for everyone.”
According to a release, Hardee’s position is new to Volusia County and assists dispatchers on calls throughout the county and city jurisdictions to provide expert insight to 911 calls involving people in mental health crises. As the program develops, its focus will be to direct mental health calls to SMA Healthcare’s 24/7 Mobile Response Team – potentially reducing the number of calls where a law enforcement response is necessary.
Hardee is currently completing a training and certification process at the Communications Center.
“Crisis care is a self-defining term – and placing a crisis counselor at the 911 call center expedites the delivery of professional services to a potentially volatile situation. We are very fortunate that the Volusia Sheriff’s Office is proactive and places high value on innovative partnerships, particularly when addressing the critical needs of our community,” said SMA Healthcare Chief Operating Officer Rhonda Harvey.
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office and SMA Healthcare have partnered in several other mental health initiatives, including a crisis response program using iPads that launched in 2020. That program, funded by a $10,000 donation from Florida Power & Light, provided several iPads for deputies to hand to people who need to talk to live mental health professionals.
Both agencies are also in the process of developing a Family Resource and Juvenile Assessment Center in Daytona Beach. The new assessment center will be a centralized facility where juveniles and their families can access resources from different agencies dealing with juvenile justice, mental health, substance abuse, truancy, and other issues.
SMA Healthcare already provides 40-hours of crisis intervention training to all deputy recruits and ongoing crisis training to deputies in the Volusia County Sheriff's Office Training Academy.
Dispatchers at the Volusia County Communications Center also receive special training for callers in a mental health crisis. Last year, the agency began putting every 911 telecommunicator through a specialized, 3-day Emergency Mental Health Dispatching course taught by a mental health professional with the Michigan-based 911 Training Institute.
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