Tri-county Mental Health Unit officers build rapport with barbecue

CEDAR CITY — Law enforcement officers from multiple agencies hosted a barbecue get-together at Cedar City’s Canyon Park on Friday.

Iron Garfield Beaver Mental Health Unit barbecue lunch event, Cedar City, Utah, May 14, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

The officers played beach-ball volleyball and ate grilled hamburgers with nearly three dozen clients and staff members of Chrysalis, which specializes in providing care, support and opportunities to people with disabilities.

Iron County Sheriff’s Deputy Brenda Pires said the lunchtime event’s goal was simply to bring together officers and those they serve for some food and fun.

Pires leads the newly established Iron Garfield Beaver Mental Health Unit, which includes several officers from various agencies within the tri-county area who have received special training in crisis intervention and mental illness response.

“We saw a need for some extra training within our law enforcement in the community, so we decided to put together a Tier 2 program,” Pires told Cedar City News. “Right now, I have eight law enforcement officers in three different agencies that are Tier 2 certified in order to handle mental health calls.”

“So if you have dementia, or autism, or you’re just having a mental crisis that day, they will call us and we will respond to that call and handle it because we have our specialized training,” she said. “From that point on, we do some follow up with the family and with the person to make sure that their needs are met. If they need resources, we bring in other people, depending on the situation, to make sure that they have everything that they need.”

Pires explained the reasoning behind extending the initial invitation to Chrysalis and its clients.

“We felt like if we reached out to them and and built a rapport with them on a non-crisis basis, that would be easier when we did actually come and have to handle something with them,” she said. “They would know us and would trust us a little bit better.”

Pires then used a hypothetical example of how someone might utilize Tier 2 officers to handle a situation involving an autistic child.

Iron Garfield Beaver Mental Health Unit barbecue lunch event, Cedar City, Utah, May 14, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

After having a Tier 2 officer come and make an initial visit, the individual’s family could then fill out a document known as a safety response plan, Pires said.

“It’s uploaded in our computer and tagged to that person’s name,” Pires said of the document. “So when the Tier 2 officers are responding, they can pull it up and look at all of their information.”

In addition to personal identifying information and physical descriptors such as height, weight and hair color, the safety response plan document also includes a place to record other data, such as behavior concerns, sensory issues, potential triggers and preferred methods of communication.

“If they’re afraid of sirens, we don’t want to go over there with our sirens on,” Pires said. “If they like stuffed dogs, I’m going to have a stuffed dog in my car and use that or anything else that I can in order to calm the situation, de-escalate things and get them back home.”

Pires said Friday’s luncheon event was the first of a regular series of such activities planned.

“We want to get together pretty frequently, maybe not once a month, but maybe once a quarter and at least do some kind of an activity with them together,” she said. “We’re going to do some training with their staff as well, so that we know what they do and they know what we do, and then we can all just work together as a team to make sure that a situation is handled properly and safely.”

Pires said anyone wishing to speak to her or another Tier 2 officer about the program may contact the Mental Health Unit by calling 435-592-6371. In case of an emergency, they may call 911 and ask for a Tier 2 officer to respond. See a copy of the safety response plan document online.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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