ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — Since Jan. 1, the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office has responded to 1,815 mental health-related calls for service.

Now, through a more than $500,000 state grant, and a partnership with the Lakeview Center, they’ll be better equipped to respond to these calls. 

The sheriff’s office’s Mental Health Co-Response unit will consist of a sworn deputy and a mental health clinician. 

“I think that the important part here is that if it is an individual that may be off their medication, the mental health clinician can more readily identify that and can help liaison between the lakeview center and the individual themselves.” Escambia County Sheriff Chip Simmons said. “So I think that what this unit will be, it will be proactive as well as reactive.”

Sheriff Chip Simmons is hoping the partnership changes some perspectives of law enforcement regarding mental health. That’s why they’re already working in house to provide counseling to their deputies.

“You may hear about a traffic crash; you may hear about a shooting incident, but our deputies and our crime scene and our dispatchers have to live that for a couple of hours,” Simmons said. “It’s difficult to turn that off sometimes. Sometimes you just need to talk to someone. You need to understand that what you’re experiencing is typical, and it may well be temporary.” 

The Sheriff’s Office hopes to roll the co-response units out in January.