MELBOURNE, Fla. — A first-of its-kind program in Brevard County aims to partner law enforcement with mental health professionals on calls involving people needing help.

Jessica Karle is a PhD who runs Coastal Psychiatric Care in Melbourne. Her mission is to provide walk-in, efficient mental health services to people in a non-emergency crisis. She wants those in need to come here instead of the hospital, or even jail.

What You Need To Know

  • New program aims to pair police officers and mental health professionals during crisis situations

  • Officers will go through a 40-hour crisis intervention training period

  • The program will be funded by a three-year grant from the Florida Department of Children and Families

“That’s one of the main reasons we set up here to is to prevent hospitalizations and arrests that are unnecessary,” Karle said.

Karle says many times people end up in those places because their situation escalated into a crisis.

She says a new Melbourne Police Department program for adults called the Mobile Crisis Co-Responder Team, or MRT, can help prevent that from happening.

“To have that available in the community for free, where officers and clinicians team up, it’s just priceless,” says Karle.

Melbourne police say the goal of the MRT program is to get someone in a behavioral health crisis the help they need instead of heading to the hospital or behind bars.

Deputy Chief Dave Waltemeyer says their dispatchers get several calls every day from people suffering from mental issues.

The program pairs trained officers and social workers or case managers to stabilize a person, diagnose what they are dealing with, and get them the care they need.

“Have a clinician come to the scene with them, engage and talk to the individual and get that person the resources they need,” says Waltemeyer. “And hopefully divert that officer from having to take that person to the hospital for a mental evaluation, or take them to jail for a criminal violation.”

He says officers will go through a 40-hour crisis intervention training period.

The department will look at the previous year once the program starts, and the year following, to see if there is a reduction in calls to the police department.

“The MRT will be able to come, possibly stay with that individual, and be able to follow up,” Waltemeyer said. “And the officer can go back in service while mobile response works with them.”

Police are now looking for clinicians like Karle to help them provide these services. They are partnering with the Central Florida Cares Health System and Brevard Family Partnership to foster those resources.

Karle says clinicians like her are better equipped to deal with these crisis situations.

“Clinicians are trained to read people, to understand what works, to roll with resistance, to apply several different techniques,” she said.

​The new program will be funded by a three-year grant from the Florida Department of Children and Families.