LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – It’s been three months since the start of a new program pairing Lexington police officers with social workers when needed. It’s a kind of partnership the city, and the nation, has been calling for amidst more stories of police violence.
“There’s been a gap in Kentucky when it comes to people in crisis,” says Darcy Miller, Regional Director of Emergency Services and a licensed clinical counselor with New Vista.
Miller says that’s why she founded the ‘Crisis Outreach Team.’
“We have another layer, or level, of care service,” Miller says. “We can connect them. We can follow up the next day. We can make sure that they’re getting to an emergency appointment, of it they need a rehab, or if they do need hospitalization.”
The program is funded by a 2-million dollar grant and serves 5 counties, including Fayette.
It’s been running since September, and Miller says the 24-hour team of 6 has gotten about 20 calls from police and has been out to active scenes about 10 times.
“The feedback I get is how excited they are about this program, that, especially with what’s going on, and the emphasis on mental health, and treating people and meeting people right where they are in the moment,” Miller says.
She says some of the program’s wins include taking someone to rehab who was ready for detox that very day, and even reconnecting an older person with dementia with their family.
Lexington Police Chief Lawrence Weathers says the program not only helps in the moment, but also, far beyond.
“We talk about fighting crime and suppressing evil,” Weathers says. Which is more important? What’s more important is keeping people from getting hurt, so suppressing it.”
Weathers says the time for change is now.
“The old type of policing – just making arrests, and counting those arrests – has gone by the wayside,” Weather says. “We are truly what we’re supposed to be. We’re guardians of society. People, no matter what they’re circumstances, need to look to us for help.”
The program is currently funded for two years.