Zach Bullock, in his early twenties, was a small-town New Hampshire police officer who responded to a 911 call about a man threatening suicide by jumping into rush hour traffic on Interstate 93.
Bullock, the only officer at the scene, was able to talk the man out of harm’s way. After flicking the man and finding no weapon, Brock did the bare minimum, just as he was trained.
Brock handcuffed the man, pushed him into the back of a cruiser and took him to the emergency department of a nearby hospital.
Twenty years later, after several career changes, Brock is back answering urgent calls about people contemplating taking their own lives.
Only now he is not equipped with handcuffs and a handgun. He has his 3 rings his binder and notepad.
Last summer, Brock, 43, joined West Central Behavioral Health’s early-stage mobile crisis response team.
Brock, a mental health clinician with a master’s degree, and six other members of the team are called in day and night. They travel in pairs and are dispatched to homes, schools, parking lots, and even Sullivan County jails.
“Wherever the crisis is, we will go,” Bullock said.
Until last year, Concord, Manchester and Nashua were the only mobile crisis response teams in New Hampshire.
In June 2021, the New Hampshire Executive Council approved $52.4 million in contracts for the state’s 10 mental health centers. At West Central, a nonprofit that covers the southern parts of Sullivan and Grafton counties, he jumped from a $1.4 million state allotment to $3 million.
“This is a big change,” Bill Metcalfe, West Central’s director of mobile crisis services, told me. “This is a culture change.”
Ken Norton, executive director of the New Hampshire chapter of the National Psychiatric Alliance, said in an interview last year that the state would “align itself with national best practice.” valley news Staff writer Nora Doyle Verr.
For years, mental health advocates have promoted mobile emergency teams as a way to keep people out of hospital emergency departments that may not be equipped to treat mental illness. . They argued that not only would it be better for patients, but it could reduce costly emergency department visits.
Early returns are promising.
Of the 113 calls handled by West Central’s crisis response team in the first half of this year, only nine involved emergency department visits.
Additional Selling Point: Of the crisis team’s 113 “outreaches,” 99 took place without police involvement.
Claremont Police Chief Brent Wilmot said West Central’s Mobile Crisis Team was a welcome addition to a time when many Upper Valley police departments, including his own, were understaffed. Told.
When police receive a call about people experiencing a mental health crisis, they are limited in what they can do other than take them to the hospital for evaluation.
“We’ve gotten used to doing it a certain way,” says Wilmot. “We meet the same people over and over, but it doesn’t work out.”
But with Mobile Crisis Teams in action, the police can’t go it alone. “We’ve had some success with them coming to our aid,” Wilmot said. “They are distracting people from hospitals.”
The challenge now is to make people experiencing a mental health crisis, or anyone reaching out on their behalf, realize that the first call doesn’t have to be the police. The call center, which operates a 24/7 rapid response line across the board, opened in January.
After speaking with the caller and assessing their needs, the mental health worker decides whether to send a crisis response team.
To avoid drawing attention, Brock and his teammates drive an unmarked West Central car. Brock wears casual clothing such as khaki pants, collared shirts, and sneakers to make his “client” more relaxed.
Sometimes he starts by “just shoot the bull.” The more people trust you, the more open they will be. ”
He usually takes notes, but he said, “Sometimes I don’t take out my pen.” “People can be intimidated. They feel criticized.”
The visit can last from 30 minutes to 3 hours, during which time Brock and other team members must summarize the situation. Is the person at risk of harming themselves or others? Should they be hospitalized?
“When you answer an emergency call, you usually don’t know what’s going on with the person or in their life,” Block said. “You’re just trying to solve the puzzle pieces.”
A person’s mental health crisis can stem from relationship problems or financial problems. Work and health stress can overwhelm someone.
Brock carries a three-ring binder filled with contact information for social services agencies. A big part of his job, he said, is “connecting people and resources.”
West Central will follow up with you by phone to see if there is anything else they can do. Block also tells clients not to hesitate to call them again.
Brock is working on his PhD and plans to become a child psychologist. Until he finishes his studies, a mobile crisis response team is an ideal job.
“You’re trying to help someone whose life is a mess in that moment,” he said. “The chance to help them get their bearings is a great feeling.”
The 24/7 New Hampshire Rapid Response Crisis Line can be reached by calling or texting 833-710-6477. To chat online, visit www.nh988.com.
Jim Kenyon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.