CORAL SPRINGS, FL – After a push from community leaders, Coral Springs is looking at the possibility of adding mental health services to the police department.

Coral Springs City Manager Frank Babinec said that his staff is evaluation services, but he stopped short of explaining what those services could be.

“We will evaluate and see how we can put services in place that best fit our community’s needs and can safely do so,” Babinec said at a recent City Commission meeting.

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That consideration, in part, came out of discussions of a Coral Springs task force – which included Babinec, Police Chief Clyde Parry, and a group of community activities –  regarding examining police procedures following local and national protests over the police killings of Black people.

In addition, a long string of callers during a July virtual City Commission meeting, as well as at some Black Lives Matter protests in Coral Springs, demanded police add more mental health services to help people struggling with homelessness, drug dependence, and other mental health problems that police officers encounter on a regular basis.

The task force came up with a list of recommendations on changes to policies as well as offered ideas for new programs and initiatives. Here is our story on those potential changes.

One of those recommendations dealt with mental health: “Examine the current level of training associated with mental health for the officers and how to properly deal with the public in mental illness-related situations.”

It’s not clear if the services Babinec referred to were part of that recommendation or something else.

Also, Parry recently said he was learning more about a program called CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) in Eugene, Ore. There, a team of crisis workers responds to many 911 calls related to mental health, homelessness, substance abuse, and threats of suicide – often without the assistance of police officers. See our story on CAHOOTS.

Some activists who called during the City Commission meeting want Coral Springs to create a similar program. Parry said he was in touch with the program’s directors to find out specifics on how it works and determine if it could work in Coral Springs.

Babinec said he and Parry will be meeting in the coming weeks to further discuss mental health services.

“That will be a stand-alone process we are going to tackle,” he said.  

 

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