Meridian Healthcare partners with ACSO for Co-Responder program

As part of Meridian Behavioral Healthcare Inc.’s long-term strategy to establish Co-Responder programs throughout the communities it serves, a Co-Responder team has been launched this month in partnership with the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO). Meridian’s first team was launched in April of 2018 in partnership with the City of Gainesville and the Gainesville Police Department and has delivered positive outcomes. 

“The Co-Responder concept involves partnering law enforcement officers with mental health professionals to act as first responders to calls for service involving persons with a mental illness so that we can provide them the services they need and potentially keep them out of the criminal justice system” stated Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell

The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office is committed to developing and maintaining programs designed to best serve our citizens. The Mental Health Co-Responder team is designed to provide immediate on-scene support, counseling, early trauma intervention and make service referrals that will best suit the needs of our citizens in crisis. 

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The Co-Responder program is an evidence-based approach that provides a positive form of outreach, community education, and de-escalation of crisis within our community. Don Savoie, President/CEO of Meridian said, “these teams are a vital aspect of advancing community-based solutions for citizens suffering with mental illness and substance use disorders.” 

The program will consist of a team comprised of one ACSO Deputy Sheriff that is certified in CIT crisis intervention training and one Meridian mental health clinician; who will partner to work a flexible, 40- hour shift. 

The team will ride together in a marked police vehicle and will respond to calls for service involving persons with mental illness, mental healthcare crisis, and calls involving emotionally charged situations. Their focus will be individuals identified as high utilizers of crisis stabilization units, emergency rooms, and the Alachua County Jail. 

The majority of the team’s time will be spent responding to calls in the community and conducting follow up visits with people engaged as they respond to calls. 

The team will also utilize time within their shift to address issues at the 0-intercept point in the Sequential Intercept Model. Intercept 0 focuses on designing mental health/law enforcement systems to connect individuals in need of treatment before a behavioral health crisis begins, at the earliest stage possible. 

The co-responder team. Sgt. Paul Pardue of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, Briana Kelley PhD, law enforcement clinical specialist at Meridian, and, not pictured is Deputy Sheriff Daniel Maynard. 

The Co-responder program is sponsored by Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, LSF Health Systems LLC, and the State of Florida, Department of Children and Families. 

Meridian Behavioral Healthcare is a comprehensive community behavioral healthcare organization located in North Central Florida. With services available throughout the region, Meridian maintains offices in these eleven counties: Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Suwannee, and Union. Meridian is CARF accredited and licensed by the Florida Department of Children and Families. Its mission is to promote the health, recovery, and well-being of those affected by mental illness and substance use disorders through prevention, coordinated treatment, and supportive services and is based on the vision that hope, recovery, and wellness are within everyone’s reach.

For more information, visit the Meridian website

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