Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Orange County Pilot Program Teams Deputies With Mental Health Clinicians

Orange County Sheriff's Office
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The unit begin responding to calls this month. The goal is to de-escalate situations, arrive at peaceful resolutions, and limit arrests and Baker Acts.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office is teaming deputies with mental health professionals as part of its Behavioral Health Unit pilot program.

The unit begin responding to calls this month, the sheriff’s office said Thursday. The goal is to de-escalate situations, arrive at peaceful resolutions, and limit arrests and Baker Acts.

“A mental health clinician is in a better position to help people who are in crisis,” Orange County Sheriff John W. Pina said in a video on the program released by his department. “Many times our deputies who are trained in crisis intervention, they don’t have all the tools they need to help people in a crisis.”

The Behavioral Health Unit has been in the works for more than a year. Each team has received 40 hours of specialized training in cases as varied as those involving post-traumatic stress disorder to substance abuse. The deputies also received 40 hours of crisis intervention training.

Two deputies will team with clinicians from Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health.

Deputies would respond first to the scene, and once it is deemed safe, clinicians would join them to help intervene. The clinicians will be proactively on patrol, listening to calls for service.

Devereux has experience in mobile response services, says Christin Edwards-Salinas, a clinical therapist with the company.

“The clinician and the deputy (will) hopefully (be) able to combine their skills to engage the individual, find out what it is that they need from us, then be able to find out how we can further assist them and get them linked to ongoing services that can hopefully prevent any future crises,” Edwards-Salinas said.

On average, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office receives 8,000 calls a year regarding mental health crises.

Health News Florida's Danielle Prieur contributed to this report.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.