NewsSarasota, Manatee County


Sarasota law enforcement agencies launch Behavioral Health Response Team

Posted at 6:24 PM, Dec 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-15 18:37:57-05

SARASOTA, Fla. — Law enforcement agencies throughout Sarasota County have found a new way to respond to mental health emergencies.

First Step of Sarasota is partnering with law enforcement to create a Behavioral Health Response Team.

The team of licensed clinicians, psychiatrists and law enforcement will respond to mental health crises together to prevent them from turning violent.

Sarasota Sheriff Tom Knight says the sheriff’s office alone has Baker-Acted 6,500 people in the last five years which shows the magnitude of help the county needs when it comes to handling mental health emergencies.

"We have a lot of people trained in crisis intervention but at the end of the day we’re not clinicians, we’re not pros, we’re cops, and there’s really no valor in us going out to these scenes. So if there’s a better way to do it, and society wants a better way to do it now, we believe this program fits our community the right way," said Tom Knight, Sarasota County Sheriff.

Local organizations like the Gulf Coast Community Foundation are helping to fund the program.

Leaders say the goal of the program is to identify people who have behavioral health problems so they can get the clinical help they need before a crisis happens.