Co-responder program leads to fewer arrests and more treatment for mental health

by Taniqua PennixFriday, April 9th 2021

Gainesville, Fla — Meridian’s Co-Responder program is a partnership between law enforcement and mental health specialists.

The Vice President of Meridian Healthcare’s Diversion and Recovery services, Jeremiah Alberico, said the program began in 2018 with the Gainesville Police Department and expanded their outreach to Alachua County in 2020.

A team will consist of one GPD/ACSO officer and one Meridian clinician, and together they handle calls dealing with people who suffer from mental illness or substance use disorders. “They’re not in an office waiting for a call to be dispatched, they are on the road. Their office is a patrol car, and they respond majority of the time, first on the scene to help these individuals who are in crisis,” he said.

The Co-Responder Program has had 268 jail diversions and prevented 284 involuntary psychiatric commitments. Instead of jail in these situations, Alberico said they evaluate the person, and give them treatment for mental health, or substance abuse. “This is just a great aspect and the broader picture on how law enforcement is helping to bridge those relationships in the community and take the stigma off of mental health,” he said.

Alberica said with the success, they plan to continue expansion so they can be of better service to those who need it most.

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