LAKE MARY, Fla. - The Lake Mary Police Department has launched the Mental Health Intervention Group (MHIG) to help people they encounter who are suffering from mental problems.
The program’s goal is to break the cycle of mental health problems that keep officers coming back to the same people again and again.
"Police departments around the country are struggling to figure out different ways to provide support for people having mental illness," said Officer Zach Hudson, with the Lake Mary Police.
Theirs is a first-of-its-kind nonprofit that trains officers to connect people suffering from mental illnesses with people and groups who can get them connected to long-term care.
"We have a pharmacy on board, we have 31 mental health counselors, Orlando Health is on board," Hudson said.
When police deem people mentally ill, they can use the Baker Act to hold them for a psychological evaluation, but there are no follow-ups, and often police bring these same people back to the ER over and over.
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"Unfortunately, we see a lot of patients that don't come in once or twice, but multiple times because they don't have the other options in the community right now," said Jaclyn Sokolowsky, a registered nurse from Orlando Health.
Instead, the MHIG program will follow-up with these people and give them long-term care through mental health counseling, faith-based care, food banks, even free medication, and free delivery if necessary.
"It's a big group of people who are collaborating together to help this community, you know? We can't do it alone, that's for sure," said Channi Sodhi, a Sanford Pharmacist
Police say many of their officers are already trained in de-escalating dangerous circumstances. They say the rest of the training will start this fall.
Tune in to FOX 35 Orlando for the latest Central Florida news.