Opinion

Mental health and policing intersect in Swampscott

We applaud the Swampscott Police Department for launching its Criminal Justice Mental Health Task Force aimed at ensuring people who need help “don’t slip through the cracks.” 

Det. Ted Delano, the driving force behind the task force, used those words in describing how the department wants to help people move from a mental-health crisis and into “sustained recovery.”

Initial plans call for utilizing a part-time clinician and a reporting tool to help officers provide medical professionals with detailed information. The task force’s work will also encompass “officer wellness” to provide mental-health help to department members.

How mental health and law enforcement intersect is a conversation that has accelerated since George Floyd’s May 2020 murder. Proposals for forming unarmed crisis-response teams are based on the notion that police responses to mental-health calls sometimes lead to confrontations.

Swampscott Police Sgt. Jay Locke said the department has seen “a definite uptick in crisis calls” related to mental health. It’s heartening to see a department veteran of Delano’s caliber drive the police response to the local increase in mental-health calls. 

The police task force is only one example of the town’s proactive approach to mental-health care. INTERFACE, a confidential mental-health referral service, is serving Swampscott, and Swampscott Superintendent of Schools Pamela Angelakis has been proactive in expanding social-emotional learning services in the public schools.

Law enforcement and mental health are words much more likely to be included in the same conversation in the wake of the nationwide police-reform debate. Swampscott police didn’t wait for the debate to accelerate into a call for action: Delano led the effort to formulate a proactive local response and town residents and police officers are sure to benefit from the task force’s work.

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