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Cookeville To Explore Agreement To Provide Mental Health Co-Responders

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Cookeville To Explore Agreement To Provide Mental Health Co-Responders

Cookeville City Council will consider an agreement to provide the police department with co-responder services for mental health-related situations.

Police Chief Randy Evans said that in entering the agreement, Volunteer Behavioral Health Systems would be ready to hire an individual to provide service immediately.

“It provides if you will, to use the term ’embedded,’ a mental health co-responder with law enforcement,” Evans said. “To quite literally be on the scene when officers respond to those types of calls and assists, to try and find a better solution than putting somebody in jail or taking them to the emergency department.”

Evans said that the two-year agreement would be at no cost to the department, thanks to a grant awarded to Volunteer Health. He said that the program would complement other efforts underway at the department to address these issues, such as the Substance Abuse Solutions program through UCHRA and the “Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets” or CAHOOTS program approved last month.

Council member Mark Miller asked if this would be a position the department would explore hiring internally without Volunteer Health. Evans said they hoped the program would become a catalyst to start this kind of program within the department using Cookeville Police personnel.

But City Manager James Mills said adding the new position this year would be an unbudgeted expense. He added the department would not necessarily have the space for it at the current building.

“That is one thing with our new facility,” Mills said. “We’ll have office space to house individuals like this for additions to the police department. But we’ve had many discussions about going forward, what’s the best way to go when Randy believes we’re ready to go that way, then we’ll include something in the budget. But I agree with Randy. If we can get it for free now and see how it works, this is a great opportunity.”

Council will vote on entering the agreement at its meeting Thursday evening.


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