Orange County deputies to receive training for new mental health response unit

OCSO has been working toward this new response unit for more than a year

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – In addition to their regular patrols, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office will soon be implementing mental health patrols.

Sheriff John Mina eluded to the idea of a new response team Wednesday.

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“We are starting a ‘Behavioral Response Unit,’ which will pair mental health clinicians with deputies and they will respond to certain calls,” a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said.

According to the sheriff’s office, the pilot program will include two deputies and two clinicians.

OCSO has been working on this new response unit for more than a year.

“Members of the unit are in training right now and will start answering calls within the next several weeks,” officials said.

Residents told News 6 they’re optimistic about it.

“I think it’s a good thing, it’s late but I guess it’s better late than never,” Alesha Masby said.

“I really think it’s going to save lives because they could come upon a situation and think it’s one thing and the mental health expert will look at it a totally different light,” resident Bettye Watson said.

It’s a similar move that Orlando City Commissioners approved Monday where counselors will soon respond to some nonviolent calls, even without police in some cases as a test.

Plus, in Volusia County, Sheriff Mike Chitwood said too many calls involving a person with a mental health crisis that ends in tragedy could’ve been avoided. He spoke to News 6 last month about his agency adding counselors soon respond to some calls, too.

“And with these actions, we believe will stop in most cases a deadly confrontation with law enforcement,” Sheriff Chitwood said.

Read more about Volusia County’s plan at this link.