Cleveland Police Department Adds First Mental Health Co-Responder

Partnering With Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System

Thursday, May 26, 2022
Officer Nathan Hartwig, left, and Luke Hannah
Officer Nathan Hartwig, left, and Luke Hannah

Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System was awarded a 21-month SAMHSA grant to place seven co-responders in law enforcement departments around middle and east Tennessee. Murfreesboro, Lebanon, Cookeville, McMinnville, Cleveland, Chattanooga and Williamson County were chosen after analyzing data from our Mobile Crisis Teams to determine which areas out of the 30 plus counties have the highest call rate. Currently, co-responders are not 24/7. Co-responder schedules vary by location as law enforcement provides statistics of when they receive the most mental health calls for service to better utilize these clinicians during peak times. 

The co-responders will assist their specific law enforcement agency in responding to individuals in the community having a mental health crisis to provide de-escalation, assessment, resources, and linkage to services. The combined expertise of the responder and law enforcement will allow for increased safety and on-scene evaluation to help individuals obtain the most appropriate level of care while avoiding unnecessary emergency department admissions and offering an alternative to incarceration for crimes related to their mental illness. The theory underlying these programs is that a joint response is preferable, as police are specialists in handling situations that involve violence and potential injury, while mental health professionals are specialists in providing mental health care to individuals in crisis.

While co-response models all have similar basic elements, it is important to note that it is not a one size fits all program. The program and structure vary between locations to best meet the needs of the community and the partnering agencies, taking population density and other available resources into consideration.

There are generally two approaches: a first response which involves an officer and behavioral health specialist that ride together in the same vehicle for an entire shift or a secondary response where the behavioral health specialist is called to the scene using their personal vehicle and the call is then handled together. Six of our co-responders will be primary response and two will be secondary. 

Requirements to be a co-responder include having a master’s degree in the clinical field with licensure preferred. This grant is set to expire in March 2023, so officials are currently in the process of looking for additional grant funding and communicating with city governments regarding overall cost.

Luke Hannah is the newest member to join Volunteer’s co-response program and will be the co-responder embedded with Cleveland Police Department. Prior to joining VBH, Mr. Hannah worked for Volunteer Comprehensive Treatment Center, providing substance abuse counseling for individuals struggling with opioid use disorder. A proud veteran, Mr. Hannah was a Master at Arms in the United States Navy who provided law enforcement and security for Naval installations overseas, in Greece and Bahrain. He has experience as a mental health case manager, where he helped clients gain access to community services, and navigate the mental health care system to better their overall well-being. 

Mr. Hannah completed his master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in August 2020 and is actively working towards licensure. He is looking forward to establishing himself in the community, and helping individuals gain access to the services they need to live a better quality of life. 

Officer Nathan Hartwig is originally from Wisconsin. He served in the Army National Guard for six years. In 1999, he began his law enforcement career in Wisconsin and then continued to serve the community, after moving 700 miles from Wisconsin, to relocate to East Tennessee and work for the Chattanooga Police Department. After returning to Wisconsin to be with family, Officer Hartwig continued to serve as a police officer. However, the mountains of Tennessee were calling him and his family back home. He has now been a Cleveland Police Department officer for the past three years working as a patrol officer and as a school resource officer for Mayfield Elementary School. Officer Hartwig has an associate degree in Police Science.

 


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