Police departments say they are handling more calls related to mental health and substance abuse than ever before.
GORHAM, Maine — The towns of Gorham and Wyndham are the latest towns to hire a Community Resource Liaison in a joint effort to reduce the total number of mental health inquiries.
Gorham Police Chief Chris Sanborn said it took about a year to track down the logistics of the Community Resource Liaison, which works with the Wyndham Police Department.
“We have seen a significant increase in calls seeking services to deal with individuals struggling with mental health and substance abuse,” said Sanborn.
Hailey Berry has taken on the role of the liaison that Windham and Gorham police officers rely on when dealing with calls related to mental health and substance abuse.
“When cops deal with a particular call, they give Haley that referral to provide information about the call so she can see it and see if there’s any follow-up work she can do.” I can confirm,” said Chief Schofield.
Sanborn said Gorham will receive 130 mental health and substance abuse calls in 2021, and Scofield said Wyndham handled 162 of those calls in the same year.
Since starting work in November 2022, Berry has answered 20 calls, most of which have involved adults in crisis.
“You’re giving people a different perspective. Some people think the police department is intimidating, but I’m coming on as a neutral stance,” Berry said.
This issue is not unique to Gorham and Windham. The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office says call volume is up 300% from his in 2021.
Other Maine cities also have points of contact for mental health needs, including Westbrook, Scarborough, Bangor, Bidford, Portland, York and Saco.
“It’s been a few years since we’ve seen a steady increase in requests for these types of services. The pandemic has just taken things to new heights for many law enforcement agencies across this state,” said Sanborn. the chief said.
An important part of her role is also helping reduce service call repetition.
“We use the service to network people, call and check in, and help prevent calls to the service,” said Chief Schofield.
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