Partnership helps criminals struggling with mental illness

Locking them up and throwing away the key is a thing of the past for the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.

The agency is partnering with Charlotte Behavioral Health Care to help those struggling with mental illness.

A lot of times the crime that they are committing are not serious crimes at all and so these are the types of situations where we want to divert arrest. They might need to be at our crisis unit, or they might need to be in detox.

“A lot of times the crime that they are committing are not serious crimes at all and so these are the types of situations where we want to divert arrest,” said Victoria Scanlon, C.E.O. of Charlotte Behavioral Health Care. “They might need to be at our crisis unit, or they might need to be in detox.”

Now, a clinician will be able to respond to scenes to help Deputies connecting people with services rather than putting them in handcuffs.

“The therapist can dig a bit deeper and access the situation in a deeper way,” Scanlon said.

Digging through the call logs each day to identify those cases. Then, reaching out.

“There’s many instances where crimes are committed and maybe they need more than just being put in jail, maybe they need some help,” said Barbara Ann Wastrodowski, a flight attendant for Allegiant Travel. “I think that’s a great way of diagnosing it.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2 million people with mental illness are booked into jails each year.

Some think the Sheriff’s Office new unit will have a positive impact in the community and provide real help for those who are struggling.

“I think the jails are probably overcrowded as it is and to get people the right help is probably a good thing,” said Jerry Tomaiko, a Punta Gorda resident.

Reporter:Taylor Petras
Writer:Michael Mora
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