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Local police departments hire mental health counselors to help with emergency calls

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Yarmouth Police Department Facebook page
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Both the Yarmouth and Barnstable police departments will be hiring mental health counselors to help with emergency calls.

Yarmouth Police Chief Frank Frederickson says a counselor can respond to calls with officers, and follow up after a crisis.

His department can be stretched thin, he says, and police officers don’t have the training that mental health counselors have.

"Having this ability to pass [a case] off to someone with the time and more expertise in the field, that's great," Frederickson said. "That will definitely help relieve the pressure."

For many people in crisis, Frederickson said, calling the police may be the only option. "When someone's having an issue, what do you do?" he said. "Call 911. And who answers the phone? It's the police. And who's up 24/7? It's the police. So, we're expected to be the Jack-of-all-trades."

The initiative to provide mental health counselors is made available with $120,000 dollars in state funding, through the latest federal stimulus package.

Barnstable state representative Kip Diggs said that he's heard from local police chiefs that they can be stretched thin when it comes to helping residents during and after a crisis.

Allowing the departments to hire a mental health consultant through the new initiative, Diggs said, should help police, but also those people who find themselves in crisis.

Diggs and state senator Julian Cyr secured $60,000 dollars each for the Yarmouth and Barnstable departments.

Sam Houghton has been with the station since the summer of 2017. Before that, he worked at the Falmouth Enterprise, where he covered local politics.