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How One Agency Is Decriminalizing Mental Illness, Saving Money and Bettering Lives

PoliceOne.com

By Val Van Brocklin

Yavapai County (AZ) Sheriff Scott Mascher is so enthusiastic about his department’s Reach Out program that he met with me to talk about it on his day off. We were also joined by Chief Deputy David Rhodes. Both men’s eyes lit up when they spoke. Reach Out’s goal is to reduce involvement in the justice system by people with mental health issues and substance use disorders. I asked Sheriff Mascher what sparked his interest in such a challenge. “My community,” he replied. About five years ago, he was working on a voter issue to extend a jail sales tax. Everywhere he went he kept hearing citizens – families of people with a mental illness or substance abuse disorder – say they called the police for help and their family member ended up in the justice system, usually for a minor offense like disorderly conduct or trespassing.

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