Two men standing outside next a sign that reads "Vermont State Police Shaftsbury Field Station"

Bridging the Gap: Pairing Mental Health Professionals with Law Enforcement

Community News

Recognizing a growing need, law enforcement organizations across the country are improving the way they operate by adding mental health experts to their teams—and Vermont is no exception. This year, UCS partnered with the Vermont State Police (VSP) and placed a clinician right inside the barracks in Shaftsbury. The benefits of having a mental health clinician embedded in law enforcement include reducing officers’ use of force; building and strengthening partnerships with other local and state agencies; reducing stress and trauma that officers may experience; and being able to provide alternative options and resources on the scene.

Thanks to this new partnership, UCS’s Bill Elwell, a Mental Health Crisis Specialist, now provides officers with on-the-spot mental health care resources and works directly with individuals who need mental health intervention. This collaboration between VST and UCS helps people in the midst of mental health crises by providing expert access in the moment.

9/10 VSP barracks have a mental health professional embedded.(1) Police-mental health collaboration (PMHC) programs allow officers to be safer, reduce repeat calls for service, minimize the strain on agency resources, and connect people with mental illnesses to services.(2)

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Before he joined UCS, Bill worked with first responders and families as a chaplain and pastor to communities in crisis across Vermont, New England, and Eastern New York.

There is no typical day for Bill. He frequently finds himself alongside officers responding to calls with identified behavioral or mental components. De-escalating unexpected situations or helping people discover ways to change circumstances that have not yet been identified are all in a day’s work. Bill finds ways of providing resources to people waiting to be processed which can result in their realizing that a critical incident, or the decision leading up to it, need not define their lives. “It has become a chance for some to look at other opportunities for healing, growth and enjoying life,” says Bill.

In addition to his work with the public, Bill is an instructor for the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation and a chaplain for the VSP peer support team.

VSP Sergeant Todd Wilkins has made it clear that having a mental-health clinician working within the barracks has been invaluable. “It is a pleasure to have Bill work alongside us. His presence has de-escalated many situations,” he says. “Having a clinician embedded in the barracks has helped to bridge the gap between law enforcement and mental health so we can better serve our community.”

“I enjoy the opportunity to partner with state troopers each day, always seeking to meet people where they are at and support them in discovering choices, possibilities, and sometimes even hope on the worst days of their lives,” says Bill.

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