Carroll University and the City of Waukesha are partnering to create a Behavioral Health Responder Training Program | WUWM 89.7FM

Carroll University’s School of Education and Humans Services is working with the City of Waukesha to develop and soon launch a new training program for Behavioral Health Responders (BHR). The City of Waukesha Finance Committee has approved the contract for the BHR program and is currently awaiting full council approval.

A BHR is someone trained in mental and behavioral health, as well as de-escalation and crisis intervention techniques, according to Jessica Lahner, director of the Behavioral Health Psychology Program at Carroll University, who created the training and partnered with the City of Waukesha.

A BHR would respond directly to 911 calls that are considered behavioral or mental health calls, and while a law enforcement officer may accompany them, law enforcement would not be the first person to respond to these calls.

“Police departments across the country are realizing that behavioral and mental health needs require a different response than your traditional criminal call,” notes Lahner. “And sometimes when law enforcement responds to those calls, they get into emergency detention situations or they use force, and maybe that wasn’t necessary.”

She says part of the appeal of these types of programs across the country is the new collective awareness that mental and behavioral health incidents are on the rise.

“They’ve always been a problem and we needed to be more responsive, but if you think about some of the silver linings of the pandemic, I think one of them is that we’re more aware of the mental health needs of the community now than we ever were were,” notes Lahner.

Some police departments hire social workers or licensed professional counselors who have the training or transferable skills to use them in this area. However, Lahner says these workers are needed for all types of work and are not that readily available. She says the entry level will make the BHR program different at Carroll.

“We’re developing an apprenticeship program that doesn’t require a master’s degree, and in that sense it’s really improving access to care for the community,” says Lahner.

She notes that law enforcement agencies with BHRs have proven beneficial, as they have more voluntary treatments versus involuntary incarcerations, a decrease in the use of force, and a decrease in repeat phone calls—all freeing up community resources.

Carroll’s BHR program will also be modeled after a case management approach, which Lahner says a traditional police department doesn’t have the breadth.

“The Behavioral Health Responder is able to assess the situation, determine the type of intervention and resources that are most appropriate for the resident, and then is able to pass that heartfelt handover to the appropriate resources or community organizations to facilitate[s]and then follow-up,” she explains.

Although the BHR program is currently in the development phase, according to Lahner, the training will include crisis intervention, de-escalation training, suicide prevention and risk assessment, an emphasis on trauma-informed care, psychologically-oriented education, and a focus on diversity. Equity and inclusion in the mental health system and professional sustainability.

“It’s creating a pipeline of trained professionals, not just for the city of Waukesha, but for everyone in the state, and it’s not even limited to law enforcement,” she notes. “There are many people who work and are in direct contact with people who are going through a mental health or behavioral crisis who could really benefit from this type of training to do their jobs more effectively and to serve the public.”

Comments are closed.