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April M. Crehan

Katelyn Dehey looks perfectly at home in a police vehicle as she reminisces with Officer Jay Godino about calls they have responded to over the past year.<--break->
But Dehey, a civilian who grew up in Mendon, isn’t a fellow officer or even a “frequent flyer” - a term for someone who has regular brushes with the law. Dehey is a mental health clinician whose Framingham Police Department placement has just jumped to full time.

As of July 1, officers have 16 hours of access Monday through Friday to Advocates, Inc. employees who are trained for a jail diversion program developed a dozen years ago.

“The police asked for it,” said Dr. Sarah Abbott, director of jail diversion programs at Advocates, as she talked about the program's birth under the watch of Ashland Police Chief Craig Davis, who was then a Framingham deputy chief.

According to the 2014 summary, the jail diversion program's goal is to "re-direct appropriate non-violent offenders out of the criminal justice system and into community based mental health/substance abuse services." The clinicians are paired with officers to respond to those in need of such services as well as residents in emotional crisis; ideally, clinician intervention cuts down on arrests and emergency hospital visits.

With programs in Framingham, Marlborough and Watertown - as well as a lapsed Milford-area regional program - Ashland, Holliston, Hopkinton and Sherborn, have banded together to create the regional ASHH program, which is in the process of hiring its first clinician and is borrowing them as needed from the Framingham program, according to Davis.

“What I did in Framingham, I’m carrying it with me to Ashland,” Davis said, explaining that Ashland by itself is too small a community to support its own program.

“This is a perfect opportunity for us to identify certain people that we deal with on a frequent basis and look for other options,” said Chief Edward Lee of the Hopkinton Police.

Clinicians ride along with officers who patrol as they normally would and respond to calls where mental health is likely to have been a factor in the events.

“There’s a lot of situations that the police can handle, but they much prefer trained skilled social workers provide support,” Abbott said.

MetroWest Daily News