Horry County police chief pushing for team to help with mental health crises

Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 5:59 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Chief Joseph Hill of the Horry County Police Department says a mobile crisis team is desperately needed in the community to help families dealing with mental health crises.

“People are just hurting right now,” he said in an interview with WMBF News. “My focus as a police chief is how do we help the community.”

Hill says nearly three years ago, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control put into place a mobile crisis team on the Grand Strand, including one at the Public Safety building.

Due to changes in funding and priorities, the chief said those services later stopped. Now, he’s looking at ways to bring the crisis team back for good.

Hill said the previous mobile crisis team consisted of clinicians who assisted police officers with resolving crises in the community.

He added that those types of emergencies included relationship breakdowns, health and financial-related issues.

Hill said he’s in the process of mapping out ways to fund clinicians for the HCPD and other EMS services in the county.

“I know the state of South Carolina is trying to marshal resources to address that,” he said. “But let’s face it, across the country those resources are very slim. So what can we do to prevent someone from either hurting themselves or others?”

Hill said the mobile clinicians would be in a position to offer families needed support during a crisis situation

It also wouldn’t require a police officer - but instead, a mental health professional.

“Let’s say before the emergency occurs, someone calls in to dispatch and says they’re in despair and I don’t know what else to do,” Hill explained. “So what do you do other than refer them maybe to a suicide hotline. But how great would it be to say, ‘I can refer you to a suicide hotline, but I can also send a mobile team to talk to you if you want to talk to someone.’”

“Two clinicians show up, they’re not wearing badges and guns. They’re civilians, professionals in mental health to help resolve a problem so maybe it doesn’t become a law enforcement issue,” he continued.

These are the beginning stages, and Hill says the next step lies with DHEC.

Once a groundwork for the program is laid out, the chief says he can then focus on ways to bring on clinicians that want to join the crisis team.

“I’ve got clinicians that have come to me saying they would like to help,” Hill said. “[I’m going to] reach out to mental health services to say ‘Hey, what can you provide?’ ‘What grants are available for a clinician to be full-time along the Grand Strand?’ I know Myrtle Beach has made great strides in identifying folks that will work for Myrtle Beach as a mobile crisis. How can we expand that so that it is effective across the Grand Strand?”

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