DeSoto CARE Team Helps Community
DESOTO – The DeSoto Police Department recently took a step in a direction that many in the community have been suggesting for some time.
Tagged the DeSoto CARE team, the letters CARE stand for Crisis Assessment Resource Engagement.
The CARE team goal; to relieve DeSoto police officers from answering repeat calls concerning people with mental health issues.
In the long term, the hope is the CARE team will lessen the need for any type of enforcement and get citizens facing mental health issues the necessary social services needed.
“We started our efforts in October of 2020,” DeSoto Police Department CARE Team Leader, Lieutenant, Melissa Franks said. “Our team is an interdisciplinary team consisting of a full-time clinical social worker, police officer, paramedic, and victim’s assistance coordinator.” Franks said the teams primary objective “is to make follow up contact with mentally ill members of the community who have recently gone into crisis. We are hopeful that this contact and offer to engage in community resources will prevent the persistently mentally ill from requiring an emergency police response.”
DeSoto Police Chief Joe Costa said he believes the formation of this unit will go a long way in helping to get resources to those citizens the department interacts with that have mental health issues.
Franks said in addition, the team’s intervention will also help those that may be having symptoms and don’t know yet what they are facing.
“We have been able to engage these individuals and their families into community services that will empower them to get needed help on their own, rather than calling on 9-1-1,” she explained. “We have also been able to begin to address some of the underlying and co-occurring issues that accompany mental health, such as substance abuse, homelessness, and dementia.”
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For example, helping elderly/disabled persons find residential placement after their family caretaker could no longer care for them.
“These types of situations can put a large burden on the fire department,” Franks said.
Also, there is the supporting and assisting juveniles and their parents who are struggling in their home environments and are at risk for entering the criminal justice system or engaging with individuals in bad situations whose circumstances put them at risk for hurting or killing themselves as well as giving support and guidance to victims and defendants where mental illness is a component of a criminal case.
And, Franks said the DeSoto CARE team is just getting started. They are also looking forward to forming a regional CARE Team, which would include the cities of DeSoto, Duncanville, Cedar Hill, Lancaster, and Glenn Heights. This would, in turn, expand the access to resources and increase capabilities.
“Lt. Franks and her team will continue to provide support and assistance to lessen repeat calls for service with those same citizens,” concluded Costa.