VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – A mental health crisis counselor is now working with Volusia Sheriff’s Office to better handle 911 calls.
Angela Hardee will step into the role after working more than a year with SMA Healthcare as a crisis care manager.
“It’s been a real eye-opener to hear all of the different calls that come into the call center,” explained Hardee.
She’s now completing a training and certification process to assist with calls at the communications center.
This new role is something she believes is vital for the community.
“A lot of callers need direction as far as what to do in that crisis situation, or just have general questions,” Hardee said.
Deputies say thousands of calls are received each year related to people dealing with a mental health episode.
Hardee’s job is to get the proper resources sent out for callers that may need counseling rather than law enforcement.
In her previous role with SMA, she would work with the Daytona Beach Fire and Police Departments.
“Anytime they would respond to an overdose we would go and follow up with people. Offer services and get people connected immediately.”
Dispatchers for the sheriff's office have also received training regarding mental health calls over the last year.
The goal is to reduce how many calls need a response from law enforcement and instead get them professional help.
“As soon as they call in, they can be talking to a very trained professional,” explained James Soukup, the VSO emergency communications director.
Soukup believes the new efforts could ultimately influence how other law enforcement agencies field mental health calls.
“It could make a very big difference in the outcome,” he continued.
As for Hardee, it’s a partnership she says will increase mental health resources in the county.
“I’m excited to work together and develop a really good program to respond to the community,” she shared.
While the new program takes off, its focus is to direct certain mental health calls to SMA Healthcare's 24/7 Mobile Response Team.