The City of Jonesboro has received a $550,000 grant from the Department of Justice to create crisis intervention teams designed to better handle incidents involving citizens with mental health and substance abuse disorders.
The Connect & Protect grant is a law enforcement behavioral health program that will partner the Jonesboro Police Department with Arisa Health Inc., to address an ever-increasing number of calls involving people suffering mental health and/or substance use crises.
The goal is to ensure better outcomes when such people become entangled in the criminal justice system.
“This partnership strives to deliver a compassionate, effective and minimally intrusive crisis-response system,” Jonesboro Mayor Harold Copenhaver said. “We believe this is vastly preferable to subjecting such people to the criminal justice system due to illness-related behaviors over which they have little or no control.”
The three-year grant will fund teams composed of police officers and mental health professionals to simultaneously respond to complaints in which the problem appears to be more medical than criminal.
“This grant will enable our officers to respond to individuals in crisis more proactively,” Jonesboro assistant police Chief Lynn Waterworth said, noting that no police department in the state has more officers with formal mental health intervention training.
Arisa Health Vice President of Grants and Business Development called the partnership with the City a “remarkable opportunity” to “bridge a long-standing challenge for our community.
“This paves the way for people wrestling with mental health challenges to be redirected from the criminal justice system … We are no longer criminalizing mental health problems.”
To secure the grant, the City agreed to provide a 39-percent match of nearly $214,000 for office space, project supervision and basic equipment.