By Ben Nandy
Police and social workers patrol Poughkeepsie once a week to help people suffering from mental illness get the help they need, before they end up in handcuffs.
The program is called the “Behavioral Evaluation and Assistance Team,” or BEAT Patrol. Social workers from Dutchess County’s Department of Behavioral and Community Health and officers look for people who might need help navigating the world of mental health treatment.
“We’re basically bringing the services to them,” said Officer Mike Braren.
While on BEAT patrol, police can bring people to the hospital if needed. Braren said he recently had to rush a “regular” to the hospital to address that person’s severe alcoholism.
The social workers the officers patrol with could provide any number of services, including discussing housing options, helping addicts find treatment and offering counseling. Braren said these interventions are necessary, because those struggling with mental illness and addiction might not take initiative to get help but might accept it when offered.
“We’ve been finding a lot that they’re hesitant to do that,” Braren said. “This way, we’re trying to reach out to them, and let them know the services exist.”