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City looks at adding more mental-health workers to ride along with police

West Roxbury Judge Kathleen Coffey

West Roxbury Judge Kathleen Coffey urges councilors to back more mental-health workers on the street.

Boston city councilors have started looking at expanding a program that uses mental-health workers to try to de-escalate confrontations between "emotionally disturbed" people and the police.

A proposal by Councilor Ayanna Pressley (at large) to add more workers to the existing Boston Emergency Services Team (BEST) won the backing of Police Commissioner William Evans and West Roxbury Municipal Court Judge Kathleen Coffey, who runs a special court session for people with mental illnesses facing criminal charges.

Evans and Coffey said too many people with mental illnesses wind up in emergency rooms, lockups, the courts and jails rather than treatment programs, which is not only bad for the individuals but costs scarce public funds and in the end may only lead to repeat cycles through the system.

"Locking up an emotionally disturbed individual is not a cure," Evans told a hearing called by Pressley and Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George (at large) today. He added that the BPD academy in Hyde Park now gives new recruits classes in trying to help such people, rather than simply locking them up.

Pressley suggested that at least one BEST worker be assigned to each of BPD's 12 districts - where they would roll out with officers responding to calls involving a potentially "emotionally disturbed" person.

Coffey said people specially trained in dealing with people with mental illness could help deescalate often volatile situations - keeping them out of jail and protecting the officers themselves from possible attacks. And where the people do need additional help, the workers would be able to get them directly into treatment programs, rather than forcing them into emergency-room beds, she said.

Coffey said that roughly 80% of the clients at the Pine Street Inn - and 40% of the inmates in Suffolk County's jails - have mental-health or addiction issues.

The criminal-justice system, especially with its rigid schedules and requirements, is just not the best place for people with mental-health issues, and they often find themselves in more and more trouble as they miss appointments or court hearings, Coffey said.

She said one person who recently came before the mental-health session she oversees - in which people facing charges are paired not just with the probation department but with mental-health clinicians - told her that "having a mental illness is like being trapped on a runaway train going in the wrong direction. hopelessness, there's a sense of despair, a sense of doom, a belief that life is not going to get better."

Getting people like that into treatment is "an excellent way to break the cycle," she said.

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Comments

I'm strongly in favor of LCSW's working alongside the police. Frankly, it's long overdue. Our police officers are asked to have the biblical "wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job" but police are not social workers, merely the last resort, especially between 4 pm and 8 am weekdays, plus all weekend, when most social services are closed.

Oft times, a plain clothes, civilian social worker can do better at resolving difficult mental health situations, especially in today's environment of hatred for police, spawned by the fake Ferguson "hands up, don't shoot lie" and the "Cambridge Police acted stupidly" repeated by Democrat politicians and their media brethren. Judge Coffee and the city council should simultaneously push for a law making the violent, mentally ill subject to arrest or police action, otherwise a nurse or social worker will soon be killed.

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Im sure youre doing a lot to lessen peoples disdain for law enforcement.

What a joke

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Can we talk about your disdain for apostrophes?

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wecan'talkaboutanysortofstupidgrammarbullshityouwantbutitwontchangeanounceofwhatisaid

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Why do you prefer LCSWs specifically instead of LICSWs or LMHCs? BEST employs all of the above. Do you just like LCSWs? If they get the higher license, are they no longer useful?

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and/or social workers and even some LCSW's working alongside the police? That might put somewhat of a check on police violence, especially that which is directed against mentally disturbed people, and/or people with developmental disabilities.

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I was ready to find common ground with Fish until his last paragraph blew that all up.

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simultaneously push for a law making the violent, mentally ill subject to arrest

I'm sure you know plenty of paramedics and EMTs. Ask them about times that someone who has been in a car accident, fallen from a scaffolding, or otherwise been violently knocked out, has taken a swing or a kick at whoever was standing in front of them when they came to.... often it's the paramedic or EMT who's trying to save them. The paramedics know to expect this, and they don't take it personally -- it's the instinctive, animal reaction to severe injury. Same way your beloved, gentle dog might bite you if you approach immediately after the dog has been hit by a car.

Do you believe that such accident victims should be subject to arrest for violently assaulting the rescue workers?

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that doesn't mean that the person who assaulted the EMT, Paramedic, or whoever's trying to save them should get off. When the person's all better, then they need to face up to what they did, and face some sort of repercussions for it, even if it's merely some sort of probation.

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You know, the millions every year so that cops learn something other than how to bust heads which has instead turned into phony degree programs that teach cops how to bust heads?

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What a huge Liability this is!

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