CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Police Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative (PAARI) and Nueces County Precinct 2 Constable Jason McCahan are pleased to announce that Constable McCahan has hired a second deputy to assist with a growing mental health and substance misuse disorder intervention program being organized with assistance from the nationwide PAARI organization.
The department’s first mental health deputy was hired several months ago, and has been responding at the request of other deputies and mutual aid agencies to calls where there is a mental health component to the issue at hand, and reaching out proactively to individuals who repeatedly interact with police due to mental health issues.
Constable McCahan said the program seeks to steer individuals with mental health challenges or substance use disorder in the direction of treatment and recovery programs, with goals of helping individuals, saving lives, reducing crime and easing the burden on emergency rooms and jails, where people suffering from mental illness are often sent.
“This is something that I believe the community will benefit from, and something that will help us deal with recurring crimes like break ins and drug offenses by breaking the cycle that leads individuals into repeated interactions with police,” said Constable McCahan. “If we can get to them before they commit a break in or other drug-related crime and if we can tackle the underlying problem, then we stop the chain of dominoes that just leads to more crime and death in our communities.”
The mental health deputies are available to assist other law enforcement agencies and first responders throughout Nueces County when requested, and Constable McCahan would like to see colleagues reach out to make use of this new resource.
“We are proud to support Constable McCahan and his team in their work to address mental health and substance misuse issues in their community” said Zoe Grover, Executive Director of PAARI. “Constable McCahan and the Nueces County Health Department’s dedication to creating public safety and public health partnerships will save lives and reduce the burden on their criminal justice system. We look forward to continuing to support their work.”
Capt. David Linder, who Constable McCahan chose to lead the new initiative, said he has had Crisis Intervention Training since 2006, but that programs seeking to address mental illness and substance misuse have come and gone over the years, even as deputies continue to respond to calls and interact with the same individuals over and over again.
“There was one individual locally who was arrested over 500 times, but he suffered from alcoholism and he needed to get help, not to be put in jail,” said Capt. Linder. “We see it all the time in the community. There are people who need help and we take them to get help, but then we do the same thing all over again a few weeks later. We need to find a solution that will help with these recurring issues.”
The Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating public safety and public health partnerships to reduce overdose deaths and create non-arrest pathways to treatment and recovery. Public Safety agencies are invited to join PAARI at any stage of their program development, whether they are just starting out or have a several years old program. PAARI will help develop policies, bring in resources, and connect departments to training. As the field continues to expand, PAARI serves as the voice of law enforcement in this field.
Hundreds of PAARI-led programs across the country have reduced arrests, guided individuals into recovery, and saved both taxpayer and individual funds by diverting individuals from jail and reducing emergency room visits.
“It would be great if we could work ourselves out of a job, but we know that’s not going to happen,” Capt. Linder said. “The pandemic only increased mental health challenges because a lot of lives got turned upside down for two years and people couldn’t go places and couldn’t meet family or friends, and that really caused issues for many people.”
Deputy Carolina Rosales has been working as a mental health deputy since February. In just over five months of work, Deputy Rosales has already responded to over 400 calls, which is why Deputy Brittney Hernandez was hired to join the program on Monday, July 25.
Deputy Rosales has eight years of experience in law enforcement, and said she was drawn to this program by her frequent interactions with individuals who were caught in a vicious cycle by addiction or mental health challenges.
“We deal with a lot of mental health calls, but often all that gets done is we sign a piece of paper and send people to the hospital to get a psych eval, and that’s it. Nothing came after,” Deputy Rosales said. “I always thought there should be something more that we should be able to do for these individuals, so when I found out Constable McCahan was creating a mental health unit I jumped at the position right away, and I’m glad I did. I’ve already realized there’s many more resources out there for these individuals.”
This is Deputy Hernandez’s first law enforcement job. She took an interest in this kind of work when she received Crisis Intervention Training as part of the police academy, in part because she grew up with a father who was schizophrenic and bipolar. Capt. Linder said part of his motivation comes from having a grandmother who faced serious mental health challenges as well.
“I saw when I was growing up that my dad couldn’t get much help, and I’m excited to help change that,” Deputy Hernandez said. “I think it could make a very important difference if we can help provide resources to people out on the streets.”
The Police Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative (PAARI) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to help law enforcement agencies nationwide create non-arrest pathways to treatment and recovery. Founded alongside the groundbreaking Gloucester, Mass., Police Department Angel Initiative in June 2015, PAARI has been a driving force behind this rapidly expanding community policing movement. We provide technical assistance, coaching, grants, and other capacity-building resources to more than 700 police departments in 40 states.
PAARI works with more than 130 law enforcement agencies in Massachusetts alone. PAARI and our law enforcement partners are working towards a collective vision where non-arrest diversion programs become a standard policing practice across the country, thereby reducing overdose deaths, expanding access to treatment, improving public safety, reducing crime, diverting people away from the criminal justice system, and increasing trust between law enforcement and their communities. Our programs and partners have saved tens of thousands of lives, changed police culture, reshaped the national conversation about the opioid epidemic, and have placed more than 30,000 people into treatment since its founding in June 2015. Learn more at paariusa.org.