Co-response psychological well being clinician joins Shrewsbury Police

Co-response psychological well being clinician joins Shrewsbury Police
Jessica Atwood is the Shrewsbury Police Division’s new jail diversion program co-response clinician. (Photograph/Laura Hayes)

SHREWSBURY – The Shrewsbury Police Division responded to just about 1,000 psychological well being calls between 2017 to 2021. 

That marked a 38% enhance from the earlier 5 yr interval, in accordance with Chief Kevin Anderson. 

Enter Jessica Atwood, who’s the division’s new jail diversion program co-response clinician.

“Whereas our officers are glorious at what they do, we’ve got to understand that they’re cops and never licensed psychological well being professionals with a proper schooling within the psychological well being area,” Anderson mentioned in a latest press launch.

Police word spike in psychological well being calls

Seeing the uptick in psychological well being calls, the division sought out an individual to assist present the next stage of service to residents in a disaster. 

Atwood, who began her function in April, instructed the Group Advocate final week that working with the Shrewsbury Police Division has been going “fantastic” thus far. 

“Everybody has been so welcoming,” she mentioned. “It’s [a] change for everyone as a result of it is a entire new place.”

“In a brief time frame, from emergencies to comply with ups, she’s been an incredible asset,” Anderson mentioned. “She constructed a extremely good relationship with the neighborhood.” 

Atwood grew up close to Lowell and Chelmsford, although she’s lived in Worcester County for the previous six years.

She’s spent about 12 years in her present occupation, working for the Framingham-based human companies company Advocates since 2016.

“I’ve at all times had an curiosity in psychology and prison justice,” Atwood mentioned.

Her first job within the area concerned working as a psychological well being technician at Lowell Common Hospital’s emergency room. 

Whereas she was working on the hospital, Atwood met clinicians who would consider sufferers within the emergency division.

“I requested a clinician as soon as, ‘How do I get your job?’” Atwood recalled.

That query led her to return to graduate faculty earlier than finally interning and later being employed by Advocates. 

Discussions about clinician date again years

As Anderson described it, the method of bringing on somebody with abilities like Atwood’s dates again to his interview to be chief. 

Anderson put a one yr strategic plan collectively, which included evaluating the division’s responses for psychological well being and people in disaster. Anderson wished to have a look at coaching that targeted on the division’s responses and its capacity to determine individuals in disaster. 

He was additionally fascinated by exploring whether or not the division ought to have a disaster intervention staff and rent a psychological well being clinician. 

As soon as he was formally employed as chief, Anderson certainly started carefully reviewing the division. 

“One of many issues we decided was there was a necessity for a psychological well being clinician,” he mentioned.

The police division obtained approval for funds for this place as a part of the Fiscal 12 months 2022 price range. 

Lt. Nick Perna then labored with Advocates, although, to safe an roughly $300,000 grant by means of the state Division of Psychological Well being.

The grant is sweet for 3 years, supporting Atwood’s place for that interval. It additionally leaves a chance that it could possibly be renewed after that interval. 

Different communities usher in clinicians

In launching their co-response program, Shrewsbury joins different communities which have additionally labored with Advocates on comparable efforts.

Such space communities embody Hudson, Marlborough, Northborough, Southborough and Westborough. 

The primary Advocates co-response program was launched in Framingham in 2003. Marlborough replicated it in 2008. Hudson joined in 2018. Westborough, Southborough and Northborough have been companions since 2019. 

Clinician begins work in Shrewsbury

Again in Shrewsbury, Atwood started working with the Shrewsbury Police Division in April after six weeks of coaching. 

As a part of her work, she co-responds with cops to calls starting from people in psychiatric disaster to home assaults to elder companies circumstances. 

“[I] assess them, assist de-escalate the state of affairs and get them the suitable sources and therapy that they could want,” Atwood mentioned. 

She mentioned this helps keep away from “pointless” emergency room visits. 

Shrewsbury officers have mentioned that Atwood is a superb asset to the division, Anderson mentioned. 

One of many division’s objectives, likewise, is to redirect individuals with psychological sickness and substance use dysfunction to the healthcare system against the judicial system. 

Over the previous yr, all of Shrewsbury’s officers have accomplished a number of psychological well being trainings. Some have additionally been despatched to disaster intervention coaching. 

“On the finish of the day, it’s the perfect end result for the individual concerned,” Anderson mentioned. “Having Jess on scene, she will know the cues to determine any individual with emotional issues or psychological well being points and get them the suitable companies that they want.” 


Jail Diversion program goals to help police in addition to communities