Dover Police Behavioral Health Unit Launches

The Dover Police Department is proud to announce the launch of the Behavioral Health Unit.  After months of research, planning, and program development with the contracted vendor (Dover Behavioral Health), the Unit officially hit the streets of Dover on May 24th with two Behavioral Health Clinicians partnered with two Dover Police Officers.  The teams work 12-hour shifts, on opposite days, to ensure 365-day service. 

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After getting acclimated to the police department and the City of Dover, the Clinician and Officer teams have been responding to calls for service and initiating proactive support to individuals throughout the city.  The primary responsibility of the Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) is to provide an opportunity for any person suffering from a mental health or substance abuse related issue, or both, the chance to be connected to services to help them.  The behavioral health specialists, working under the title of Clinical Field Partners, are supported and protected by Dover Officers.  They provide definitive care at initial contact when it is more likely the person needing help in that moment will accept it.

More often than not, the police are the first to respond to a disturbance or criminal incident that may be the result of a behavioral health related issue.  The BHU provides the department, and more importantly the person needing assistance, with the opportunity to be connected to necessary services without a criminal arrest.  Officers and their Clinical Field Partners will then follow-up with those contacted, as necessary, to ensure they are on the right path to improvement or recovery. 

Patrolman First Class Michael Simpkiss, a four-year veteran, volunteered to take part in the program.  He is joined by Patrolman First Class Thomas Rivera, a six-year veteran of the Department and former Dover Police Cadet.  Both are full-time Community Policing Officers.  Their Clinical Field Partners are Watara Heath and Vasile Mihai Rus, both of whom work with the Dover Behavioral Health (DBH) System and competed for the assignment.  The Officers and Clinicians were formally introduced at a City Council Meeting on June 13th.  

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Chief Johnson would like to thank all of the individuals who came together to implement this project.  “The Criminal Justice Council facilitated the Grant application.  The State of Delaware provided additional program funds.  The University of Delaware offered the same support software they supplied to the New Castle County PD ‘Hero Help’ initiative.  Hero Help is a similar program and the New Castle County Officers were a great resource for us.  I wanted to make sure that our program was sustainable for the long haul and had the best chance for success.  In the end, great collaboration brought together great service providers to try and help some of our most at-risk members of the community.  I know that this will save lives and be another step towards a better Dover.”

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