Murfreesboro Police Add Two More Mental Health Co-responders After First Year Success

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Murfreesboro Police Add Two More Mental Health Co-responders After First Year Success
from left to right: Kevyn Wilson & Sydnee Kucenski/photo courtesy of Murfreesboro Police Department

The Murfreesboro Police Department (MPD) has added two additional mental health co-responders bringing the total number to three.

Kevyn Wilson and Sydnee Kucenski-Land joins Co-Responder Heather Noulis who began working with Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) in February 2022.

Kucenski-Land, a clinician hired by Volunteer Behavioral Health Care Systems (VBHCS) embedded with MPD last October. She responds to mental health related calls with CIT officers Monday – Friday from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.

“I’m excited to be a co-responder for the city of Murfreesboro,” Kucenski-Land said. “I look forward to seeing all the positive changes that come from the program.”

Wilson is a licensed master social worker and a mandatory pre-screening agent undergoing LCSW supervision for the State of Tennessee. He is serving on MPD’s Homeless Outreach Support Team (HOST) as an MPD/VBHCS co-response specialist.

“The healing power of service and spirit drives me to move forward in clinical social work advocating for the improvements in the lives of the marginalized population,” Wilson said. “I’m proud and optimistic in bringing engagement, follow through, and immediate mental health interventions into the unhoused populations of Murfreesboro alongside and partnering with Murfreesboro police.”

Mental Health co-responders have interacted with more than 280 individuals with mental health issues since the VBHCS partnership began a year ago. Twenty-nine percent of the mental health related calls were for individuals experiencing psychosis, 29 percent for suicidal thoughts and 12 percent for depression or anxiety.

Co-responders have assisted those in crisis by connecting them to inpatient and outpatient treatment, alcohol/drug treatment, emergency shelter, psychiatric and medical medications funds, necessities like hand warmers, gloves, beanies, and other services.

Co-responders diverted twenty-three individuals from incarceration to treatment-based alternatives to date.  There have only been six arrests out of the 280-plus interactions; most had outstanding warrants.

Sixty-five clients would have unnecessarily been taken to the emergency room for psychiatric evaluation if it were not for the mental health co-responders and CIT officer’s ability to assess and intervene in the community.

The City of Murfreesboro, Murfreesboro Police Department and Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System funded the two new positions through a $500,000 American Rescue Plan Act award. The contract expires June 2024.

All MPD officers receive basic in-service mental health training.  Eighty-four officers are CIT certified; four are trainers.  Dispatchers also receive mental health training.