TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — Tuscaloosa County has some new resources to help deal with the growing problem of mental illness.
Tuscaloosa County Probate Court has expanded the Mental Health Officer team with Northport Police Department, Tuscaloosa Police Department, University of Alabama Police Department, and Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.
Tuscaloosa County sheriff’s Deputy Joe Guin is one of the new mental health officers, He is also a paramedic.
“Here in Alabama and Tuscaloosa its the mental health capital and it’s always been recognized like that. And so there are a lot of people with mental health issues,” Guin said.
Deputy Guin tells CBS 42 he and his partner deal with lots of mental illness cases. Most of the calls they respond every day have to deal with mental health.
“On a daily basis, we go through anything from someone being full on distressed and may be hearing and seeing things that are not there so they are depressed. We see it all from schizophrenia, bi-polar, to depression, and anxiety”.
Each law enforcement agency in the Tuscaloosa area has a mental health officer: Northport police, Tuscaloosa police, Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s office and UAPD all have an officer. Their role is to help people and evaluate folks with mental health illnesses.
The mental health officers perform normal law enforcement duties in addition to their mental health services.
“If we are not able to get an individual to go the hospital to get the treatment they need, sometimes it’s better for that person to be seen medically and get the issues resolved then to be put in a jail cell”.
Several years ago the program began with only one mental health officer. Now there are a total of seven, three are already serving their community.