LOWELL — When Lowell Police officers hit the streets in response to emergency calls later this month, they will have a new full-time department employee with a unique skillset at their side.
The Lowell Police Department received the funding to hire two master’s-level clinicians — with expertise in mental health needs — who will be embedded within the department and available to ride along on calls with officers.
The co-response clinicians will provide on-scene de-escalation, risk assessment, psychiatric evaluations and referrals for levels of care, and will help divert individuals experiencing mental health crisis from potential arrest and emergency department visits.
The information about the co-response model was detailed by Bonnie Cuccaro, the supervisor for the Jail Diversion Program of the Advocates agency — the organization which helped bring the program to Lowell.
“Any call for service where the officer feels like it might be helpful to use (a clinician) as a tool — domestic violence calls, if a family member finds a deceased family member, substance abuse issues — the clinician accompanies police and provides support, ” Cuccaro said. “We’re just another tool for the officer.”
The clinicians hired by the department must undergo the same background investigation as police officers. They are also required to have a master’s degree in a field such as social work, psychology or counseling, and they must have at least two years of crisis-response work.
“They have to be able to deal with a crisis in real time,” said Cuccaro, stressing the clinicians will be in the cruisers and side-by-side with officers on scene for any number of emergency-response calls.