ORLANDO, Fla. – Keeping people out of jail, preventing homelessness and treating mental illness — these are issues with complicated and often expensive solutions.
But one Florida city is employing a program that aims to solve all three.
The Mental Health Offenders Program, or MHOP identifies and treats repeat misdemeanor offenders with severe mental illness and substance abuse problems who’ve been arrested dozens of times. Organizers say this keeps these individuals out of jail while saving taxpayers a lot of money.
“We’ve been able to help individuals, one individual was in jail on average every 10 days,” Dr. Colleen Bell, the medical director at Sulzbacher Center tells Solutionaries’ Vic Micolucci.
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But what about the men and women sworn to protect and serve? From violence to mental illness, law enforcement is constantly exposed to horrific situations and high levels of stress.
So why are many officers so reluctant to seek help for themselves?
Trooper Steve Montiero sat down with Volusia County’s top cop to find out why.
“When you look at the number of vets who kill themselves or the number of police officers who kill themselves – this is real,” Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said. “PTSD is real and I think every administrator in the country whether a sheriff or police chief, it’s incumbent upon us to do everything humanly possible to provide the resources to our folks who are out there because you want them to retire in good mental and physical health.”
In the aftermath of a recent incident where a 3-year-old accidentally shot himself after finding his father’s gun, Chitwood said the responding deputies were quickly pulled from the investigation into a peer-group session made up of other law enforcement.
Later on, the sheriff’s office human resources department connected the deputies with partnered psychologists.
“The first 24 hours, the first 48 hours aren’t really the problem. It’s the two, three, four, five years down the line. What happens?,” he said.
Chitwood said like most law enforcement officers, there are murder cases that still haunt him today, years after responding to the scene.
Watch the full interview below to learn how Sheriff Chitwood says he manages his stress and how he’s working to change the stigma around mental healthcare for law enforcement.
Join us for Solutionaries every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. Watch here on ClickOrlando.com, on the News 6+ app (Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, Google TV) or on the Solutionaries YouTube channel.
Solutionaries is a production of the news teams at Graham Media Group stations KPRC-Houston, WDIV-Detroit, KSAT-San Antonio, WKMG-Orlando, WJXT/WCWJ-Jacksonville and WSLS-Roanoke.