What is it?
The Behavioral Response Unit is a Co-Responder Model pilot program in which trained mental health clinicians from Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health are paired with Orange County deputies to respond to calls for service involving mental health crisis. The program was launched December 15, 2020 with two Deputy-Clinician teams.
The clinicians are mental health professionals and the deputies all are Crisis Intervention Trained (CIT), and have undergone 40 hours of Crisis Intervention Team training. Together, the clinicians and the BRU deputies participated in 40 hours of specialized Behavioral Response Unit training, which took place earlier this month.
Why a Co-Responder Model?
In 2019, after seeing some national incidents involving people in mental health crisis, Sheriff Mina thought about what the agency could do to prevent some of these tragedies from happening. Even though there are about 400 OCSO CIT-trained deputies, they don’t have all the tools needed to help people who are experiencing a mental health crisis.
Sheriff Mina asked his staff to research best practices nationwide, and Major Carlos Torres traveled to California and Miami in early 2020 to look at their models. After reviewing all of the material, Sheriff Mina settled on the Co-Responder Model, pairing mental health clinicians with deputies.
More about the Behavioral Response Unit
Deputies assigned to the BRU have Crisis Intervention training, but mental health clinicians are in a better position to help directly with those in crisis. The teams will respond to calls for service related to mental illness, PTSD and some substance abuse issues. The deputies will make sure the clinician and the area is safe.
On average, OCSO responds to roughly 8,000 calls annually – that’s 22 calls a day - regarding individuals experiencing some sort of mental crisis. Family members or others with minimal options to care for those in crisis, turn to law enforcement for help. Often in those cases, the options for law enforcement are arrest or Baker Act. The BRU deputies and clinicians will be able to access community resources, and they will also be able to follow up with the individuals and help create a treatment plan.
The BRU teams will spend their shifts monitoring the radio and responding to appropriate calls for service. They can also be summoned to a scene if a responding patrol deputy requests them. There will always be a patrol deputy or deputies initially responding to these calls for service to ensure the scene is safe for the BRU teams.
We expect the teams will use all of their training and background to help de-escalate situations, arrive at peaceful resolutions and limit our number of arrests, response to resistance and Baker Acts.