Midlothian Police Department Mental Health Summit Highlights Awareness

two ladies discussing
Stacia Alexander and (r) Theresa Little, outreach specialist for The Family Place in Mesquite

MIDLOTHIAN – With the mental health crisis in the country at an all-time high the Midlothian Police Department delved into the topic last week hosting a Mental Health Summit for professionals in the area.

Midlothian Patrol Commander Clay Regan said, “There is always a percentage of the citizens of any community who battle with mental health issues, either as a patient or a family member trying to help them.”

Regan said that while larger cities, counties, and agencies have organizations to assist them, there are often few resources for less populated areas of the state.

“As Midlothian undergoes exceptional growth, public safety services struggle to keep up with demand,” Regan continued “The Midlothian Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Unit (CIU) was formed to assist those in crisis, by providing resources to the patient and their families to assist them in maintaining a healthy mental state. As an agency, we want to be leaders in breaking through the stigma that is often attached to mental illness.”

The Midlothian Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Unit (CIU) formerly began in April of last year, but Regan said the concept of the unit began taking shape in November 2020.

Since its inception, the CIU receives referrals in two ways. The first way the CIU receives referrals is through normal public safety interactions. If a member of the Midlothian PD interacts with a citizen in need of assistance, he or she completes a Mental Health Referral and a member of the CIU will contact that person to ascertain needs. If it is an emergency, a member of the CIU may become immediately involved in the response.

Midlothian Guardian Program

The second way the CIU receives referrals is through the Guardian Program. This is where a family member, friend, or the person themselves, wants to make the CIU aware of their needs to better assist them if there is an emergency. Members of the public may register for the Guardian Program through the Police Department and the City of Midlothian’s website.

DeSoto Police Chief Joe Costa whose own department has been a trailblazer in the mental health crisis and policing in the Best Southwest said, “Midlothian hosted a forum to discuss ways that neighboring police departments are managing citizens with mental health issues. As more police departments work to develop initiatives to deal with the mentally ill, it is good to see that Midlothian rallied the surrounding communities to discuss ways to properly address interactions with citizens suffering from mental health issues.”

Other police agencies who sent representatives to attend the Midlothian summit last week included Fort Worth, Irving, Grand Prairie, Flower Mound, and Arlington, as well as neighboring agencies such as Mansfield and Waxahachie. Additionally, there were participants from Child Protective Services, the Cleburne Fire Department, Crowley ISD Police, Midlothian ISD School Resource Officers, Ellis County Emergency Management, Ellis County District Attorney’s office, and Dallas County Criminal Court judges.

Regan added “This was, to our knowledge, the first Public Safety initiated conference of its type ever. The Midlothian PD CIU wanted to begin the difficult process of linking all of the entities involved in a comprehensive mental health response.”

Regan explained that overall he believes many law enforcement organizations struggle with the various laws pertaining to mental health response and the ability to integrate a “seamless coordination” with mental health hospitals, state partners, and the various nonprofit community stakeholders.

Continuing To Educate Law Enforcement About Mental Health

“No one has had a summit like this with these goals in mind,” Regan said. “This Summit demonstrates the importance of law enforcement to continue to educate ourselves about mental health, so that we can play a role in getting people and families who are struggling with mental illness the help and resources they need.”

Speakers at the event included “Dr. Stacie Alexander, LPC, Mental Health Clinic Director, Paul Quinn College, Dallas; Dr. Allena Anderson, LPC, Owner, Texas Family Center; Yvette Bonilla, LCSW, Owner, Suicide Care Consulting Services; and Harvey Norris, LCSW, Clinical Supervisor, Assertive Aspirations, LLC.

Roundtable Guest Darnell L. Rice said of the event “We appreciate you and the police department bringing us together for this important summit.”

Regan said it is all about making a difference in the community.

“We have learned a lot on the development and presentation of this summit and look forward to next year’s event. We will continue to hold quarterly meetings with the mental health community, so we can build on what we have started,” Regan stated.

There were a little over 200 in attendance with attendees coming not only from Texas, but also Colorado, Missouri, Louisiana, Virginia, and Florida.

The summit was funded by a host of sponsors including Connections Wellness Group, Dallas Behavioral Healthcare Hospital, Hickory Trail Hospital, Rock Springs, One Tribe Foundation, Methodist Midlothian Medical Center, and Perimeter Healthcare as well as the Heroes of Midlothian Foundation, who underwrote the lunch.

“Mental health, and the difficulty for some to maintain a healthy mental balance, is always an underlying issue in society, and with the COVID-19 pandemic, these issues have been magnified,” concluded Regan. “From the fear of illness, loss of work, stress of keeping the family units together and safe, homeschooling of children, the inability of many to mourn the passing of loved ones, and many other societal stressors, even those who have a healthy mental state are feeling some level of stress.”

At the end of the day, a list of short-range plans included continuing to raise mental health awareness with events like an upcoming Mental Health Awareness Walk on May 21, 9 a.m., Midlothian Community Park, 3601 S. 14th Street.  For more information, go to www.PawsForReflection.org. Mental health professionals and organizations that want to attend the quarterly meeting to help coordinate mental health services in the community, may call Jamie Singleton at 972-775-7626.  Those who would like to register for the Guardian Program may do so at www.midlothian.tx.us/890/Crisis-Intervention-Unit.