VOLUSIA COUNTY, FL – A newly hired mental health crisis counselor arrived at the Volusia Sheriff’s Office Communications Center this week, marking the beginning of a new program designed to provide expert insight into calls involving people in mental health crises.
Angela Hardee, an SMA Healthcare Emergency Care Manager integrated with VSOS 911 dispatchers, will assist with certain calls and help direct them to the right psychiatric health care providers.
Her position is new to Volusia County and will assist with calls throughout the county and city jurisdictions. As the program evolves, its focus will be on directing certain mental health calls to SMA Healthcare’s 24/7 Mobile Response Team – potentially reducing the number of calls where a law enforcement response is needed.
“If we have a mental health counselor called in from the beginning, then we have a better chance of getting the right resources where they are needed right away,” Sheriff Mike Chitwood said of the program. “Our coordinators, deputies and police are doing an incredible job of handling these calls day in and day out, and this is one way we can help make the system work better for everyone.”
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“Crisis management is a self-defining concept – and placing a crisis adviser on the 911 call center accelerates the delivery of professional services to a potentially unstable situation. We are very fortunate that Volusia Sheriff’s Office is proactive and places great emphasis on innovative partnerships, especially when it comes to will meet the critical needs of our society. “
SMA Healthcare Chief Operating Officer Rhonda Harvey added
Hardee is now completing a training and certification process in the communications center.
VSO dispatchers have also received special training for callers in mental health crisis. Last year, the agency began putting each 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.
VSO and SMA Healthcare are partners in several other mental health initiatives, including a crisis response program using iPads, launched in 2020. This program, funded by a $ 10,000 donation from Florida Power & Light, provided several iPads as deputies. be able to hand out to people who need to talk to a living mental health professional.
SMA Healthcare provides 40 hours of crisis intervention training to all deputy recruits in the VSO Training Academy, in addition to ongoing crisis training for deputies.
VSO and SMA are also partners in the development of a Family Resource and Youth Assessment Center in Daytona Beach, a centralized facility where young people and their families will have access to resources from a variety of youth, mental health, and drug abuse, bullying and other problems.