Dunwoody Police bring in mental health expert for 911 calls

DUNWOODY, Ga. (CBS46) – The Dunwoody Police Department is the latest law enforcement agency to bring in mental health experts to respond to 911 calls with their officers. They hope to be able to better serve people struggling with mental health issues in the community with this addition.

“We are starting to respond to a lot more mental health calls, sometimes on a daily basis,” said Dunwoody Police Sgt. Michael plays.

Last month, Atlanta police responded to an unruly customer with a handgun at a restaurant in Buckhead, and the situation escalated. Nygil Cullins, 22, allegedly shot a security guard and was later shot dead by police.

Cullin’s family say he had a mental breakdown – he even called the police earlier that night asking for help for their son. They want to know why no mental health professional was on the scene.

“We are going to fight so that other mothers, other sisters and uncles and cousins, their loved ones can get help,” her aunt said.

Atlanta police told CBS46 they don’t have mental health professionals assigned to respond to 911 calls. But they do offer a non-emergency 3-1-1 option Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Mental health experts say it’s better to have a trained medical professional on the scene than a uniformed officer who could make the person in crisis more anxious.

“A lot of these calls coming in – they have nothing to do with police business. People are in crisis and they don’t know who else to call and we’re all trained to call 911,” said said Pej Mahdavi, clinical social worker, View Point Health “Officers, no matter how good, are trained to uphold the law. It’s not about being counselors, therapists.”

Officers say this program could make a drastic difference in the future.

“A resource to help them stay out of the criminal justice system,” Cheek said.

Dunwoody Police say they are still working on the program to iron out the details. They say if there is success and higher demand, they might be able to recruit more clinicians.

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