The Franklin County Commissioners have proclaimed the week of Sept. 18, 2023 to be National Co-Responder and Crisis Responder Week in Franklin County. In doing so, the commissioners are asking residents to recognize the efforts these professionals undertake to divert individuals in mental health crisis away from the criminal justice system and toward community-based supportive services.
Mental health challenges may lead to a variety of unfavorable outcomes, including homelessness, frequent law enforcement interaction, incarceration and emergency room visits. Each of those scenarios is more intrusive and more costly for communities and detrimental for individuals compared to early interventions through local behavioral health services.
Seeing that impact and a corresponding need for additional behavioral health resources, Franklin County established a Mental Health Co-Responder Program to embed mental health professionals with law enforcement agencies to respond collaboratively to individuals in crisis, provide the right intervention at the right time to avoid arrests, emergency room visits, and repeat 911 calls by connecting those individuals to appropriate resources.
Since May 2017, the co-responders with the Chambersburg, Greencastle, Washington Township and Waynesboro police departments have served over 1,700 individuals for more than 9,000 contacts. Of those 1,700-plus individuals, 91% have not had additional contact with law enforcement. In 2023, a third co-responder position was established. This program was initiated thanks to funding from a Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency grant and continues today with support from the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Chambersburg and Waynesboro police departments.
These co-responders work collaboratively within their own law enforcement agencies, but also with the Franklin County Department of Emergency Services, Franklin County’s adult and juvenile probation departments, Franklin County Jail, and a variety of human service agencies.
“Thanks to the hard work of our dedicated co-responders and crisis responders, the number of individuals involved in our criminal justice system continues to decrease,” said Franklin County Commissioner Chairman Dave Keller. “Because of their efforts, our local law enforcement agencies have the opportunity to focus their efforts on other aspects of protecting our communities, and individuals experiencing mental health challenges are better able to connect with behavioral health resources.”
By highlighting National Co-Responder and Crisis Responder Week in Franklin County, the commissioners are encouraging residents to recognize the services these professionals provide to protect area communities, lessen the strain on the criminal justice system and offer appropriate resources to those in need.